The major practical advantage of the direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), comprising the thrombin inhibitor dabigatran and the factor Xa inhibitors apixaban, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban, over vitamin K antagonists is their fixed dosing without the need for laboratory monitoring. With the recent, rapid introduction of the DOACs for the treatment of acute venous thromboembolism (VTE), clinicians are now faced with various questions regarding the efficacy and safety of these compounds overall and in specific high-risk populations. The collective evidence from 6 large clinical trials involving 27,000 patients has demonstrated that DOACs are as effective as vitamin K antagonists (VKA) in preventing recurrent VTE while being associated with a significantly lower risk of major bleeding. These findings are consistent in subgroups of patients with pulmonary embolism, the elderly, and those patients with a high body weight or moderate renal insufficiency, making these agents suitable for a broad spectrum of patients with VTE. DOACs are also an attractive treatment option in patients with VTE and concomitant cancer, thrombotic antiphospholipid syndrome, or heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, but the currently available clinical data is insufficient to make evidence-based recommendations on the use of DOACs in these settings. Several studies evaluating the efficacy and safety of DOACs in these high-risk populations are underway.