Characterization of blood vessel elastic properties can help in detecting thrombosis and preventing life-threatening conditions such as acute myocardial infarction or stroke. Vascular elastic photoacoustic tomography (VE-PAT) is proposed to measure blood vessel compliance in humans. Implemented on a linear-array-based photoacoustic computed tomography system, VE-PAT can quantify blood vessel compliance changes due to simulated thrombosis and occlusion. The feasibility of the VE-PAT system was first demonstrated by measuring the strains under uniaxial loading in perfused blood vessel phantoms and quantifying their compliance changes due to the simulated thrombosis. The VE-PAT system detected a decrease in the compliances of blood vessel phantoms with simulated thrombosis, which was validated by a standard compression test. The VE-PAT system was then applied to assess blood vessel compliance in a human subject. Experimental results showed a decrease in compliance when an occlusion occurred downstream from the measurement point in the blood vessels, demonstrating VE-PAT’s potential for clinical thrombosis detection.