Since its introduction into clinical practice, more than 20 years ago, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) has proven to be an effective, minimally invasive alternative to coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). During this time there have been great improvements in the design of balloon catheters, operative procedures and adjuvant drug therapy, and this has resulted in low rates of primary failure and short-term complications. However, the potential benefits of angioplasty are diminished by the high rate of recurrent disease. Up to 40% of patients undergoing angioplasty develop clinically significant restenosis within a year of the procedure. Although the deployment of endovascular stents at the time of angioplasty improves the short-term outcome, 'in-stent' stenosis remains an enduring problem. In order to gain an insight into the mechanisms of restenosis, several experimental models of angioplasty have been developed. These have been used together with the tools provided by recent advances in molecular biology and catheter design to investigate restenosis in detail. It is now possible to deliver highly specific molecular antagonists, such as antisense gene sequences, to the site of injury. The knowledge provided by these studies may ultimately lead to novel forms of intervention. The present review is a synopsis of our current understanding of the pathological mechanisms of restenosis.