Platelet aggregation, the process by which platelets adhere to each other at sites of vascular injury, has long been recognized as critical for hemostatic plug formation and thrombosis. Until relatively recently, platelet aggregation was considered a straightforward process involving the noncovalent bridging of integrin alpha(IIb)beta(3) receptors on the platelet surface by the dimeric adhesive protein fibrinogen. However, with recent technical advances enabling real-time analysis of platelet aggregation in vivo, it has become apparent that this process is much more complex and dynamic than previously anticipated. Over the last decade, it has become clear that platelet aggregation represents a multistep adhesion process involving distinct receptors and adhesive ligands, with the contribution of individual receptor-ligand interactions to the aggregation process dependent on the prevailing blood flow conditions. It now appears that at least 3 distinct mechanisms can initiate platelet aggregation, with each of these mechanisms operating over a specific shear range in vivo. The identification of shear-dependent mechanisms of platelet aggregation has raised the possibility that vascular-bed-specific inhibitors of platelet aggregation may be developed in the future that are safer and more effective than existing antiplatelet agents.