The coagulation cascade of secondary hemostasis has two initial pathways which lead to fibrin formation. These are the contact activation pathway (also known as the intrinsic pathway), and the tissue factor pathway (also known as the extrinsic pathway) which both lead to the same fundamental reactions that produce fibrin. It was previously thought that the two pathways of coagulation cascade were of equal importance, but it is now known that the primary pathway for the initiation of blood coagulation is the tissue factor pathway. The pathways are a series of reactions, in which a zymogen (inactive enzyme precursor) of a serine protease and its glycoprotein co-factor are activated to become active components that then catalyze the next reaction in the cascade, ultimately resulting in cross-linked fibrin. Coagulation factors are generally indicated by Roman numerals, with a lowercase a appended to indicate an active form.
The coagulation factors are generally serine proteases (enzymes), which act by cleaving downstream proteins. There are some exceptions. For example, FVIII and FV are glycoproteins, and Factor XIII is atransglutaminase. The coagulation factors circulate as inactive zymogens. The coagulation cascade is therefore classically divided into three pathways. The tissue factor and contact activation pathways both activate the “final common pathway” of factor X, thrombin and fibrin