The adequacy of anticoagulation during 2 hours of cardiopulmonary bypass at 30 degrees C in 9 rhesus monkeys was determined by measuring the whole-blood activated clotting time (ACT) and by noting the appearance of thrombin-altered fibrin (fibrin monomer) and the relative consumption of clotting factors. Factor V and VIII, the heparin cofactor, antithrombin III, prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, ACT, platelets, hematocrit, fibrinogen, and fibrin monomer were determined prior to heparinization and after protamine. In 6 of 9 experiments, fibrin monomer became positive in the plasma during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), indicating that active coagulation was occurring. In 5 of the 6 animals, initial ACT was less than 400 seconds, and fibrin monomer appeared within the first 30 minutes of bypass. In 1 animal with an initial ACT of 439 seconds, fibrin monomer appeared after 60 minutes of bypass, at which time the ACT was less than 400 seconds. An abnormal level of fibrin monomer was not detected in 5 pediatric patients with an ACT greater than 450 seconds during CPB. Our experimental study and clinical data suggest that the lower limit, as measured by the ACT, for anticoagulant effect to provide coagulation-free CPB is at least 400 seconds.