Fibrin deposition is a prominent finding in the synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Macrophages are found in increased numbers in RA synovium, and these cells are known to produce a variety of procoagulant and anticoagulant molecules. Using immunohistologic techniques, the content and distribution of several important components of the coagulation system in the synovium of patients with RA, osteoarthritis (OA), or traumatic joint abnormalities requiring surgery were investigated. Samples from 3 patients from each category were examined in detail. RA synovium (compared with that of patients with OA or joint trauma) had increased numbers of macrophages and increased expression/content of fibrinogen, tissue factor, factor XIII, tissue transglutaminase, cross-linked fibrin (fibrin D dimer), urokinase-type plasminogen activator, and alpha 2-plasmin inhibitor. Macrophage content in RA synovium was increased in both the lining cell areas and the interstitial cell areas. Fibrinogen was distributed throughout the tissue in all samples and was greater in RA synovium. In trauma and OA synovia, tissue factor was seen only in association with vessels (endothelial cells), but in RA synovium, it was markedly increased throughout the tissues. While fibrin D dimer was seen in small amounts in synovial lining cell areas of trauma and OA synovia, it was present in increased amounts in the lining cell and interstitial cell areas of RA synovium. Factor XIII and tissue transglutaminase were present in scant amounts in trauma and OA synovia, but there were increased amounts of both (especially tissue transglutaminase) in RA synovium in the vessel, lining cell, and interstitial cell areas. Urokinase and alpha 2-plasmin inhibitor were also markedly increased in RA synovium. These results suggest that in inflamed synovium, there is ongoing extravascular tissue fibrin formation and dissolution that correlates with the degree of inflammation and macrophage content. Extravascular coagulation/fibrinolysis in RA represents a potential target for therapeutic intervention in this disease.