The aim of this paper was to review the strengths and limitations of current 'point-of-care' techniques for the detection of antiplatelet drug effects. The review was based on a Medline search for articles with key words related to "platelet function tests", "point-of-care", and "anaesthesia", published in English between January 1996 and September 2008. It was found that global assessments of 'haemostasis', such as the standard thrombelastograph, Sonoclot, Clot Signature Analyser and Hemodyne, are not specific for platelet function and are essentially insensitive to cyclooxygenase inhibitors (aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and P2Y12 antagonists (ticlopidine, clopidogrel). Global assessments of 'platelet function', such as the PFA-100 and PlateletWorks, are more specific for platelet function, but also have limited sensitivity for cyclooxygenase inhibitors and P2Y12 antagonists. The newer devices developed specifically for the assessment of antiplatelet drugs, such as Platelet Mapping, the Impact Cone and Platelet Analyser and the VerifyNow, are more promising, but are not as sensitive as laboratory platelet aggregometry. All three categories of devices detect G(p)II(b)/III(a) antagonists (abciximab, tirofiban, eptifibatide) activity, but not all provide quantitative assessments for monitoring therapy. The limitations appeared to be related to the complexity of platelet function, the multiple pathways of platelet activation, the wide interpatient variability in platelet responses and the interdependence between platelets and other aspects of coagulation. The strengths and limitations of point-of-care devices should be appreciated before they are used to assist clinical decision-making in the perioperative period.