Previous studies of hypothermia and blood coagulation have focused on alterations in the levels of blood clotting elements using coagulation tests performed under normothermic conditions. However, because of the enzymatic nature of activated clotting factors, hypothermia should also be expected to affect clotting factor activities. Multiple determinations of activated partial thromboplastin times (APTT), prothrombin times (PT), and thrombin times (TT) were performed on commercially available normal human plasma at assay temperatures similar to those encountered clinically (25-37 degrees C). Both the APTT and the PT were significantly prolonged at temperatures below 35 degrees C (P less than 0.05). Clotting time correlated significantly with assay temperature in a negative exponential fashion for all three tests (r = -0.97 for APTT, -0.93 for PT, -0.71 for TT, P less than 0.001 for all regressions). Clotting time prolongation appears proportional to the number of enzymatic steps involved. These data indicate that the coagulopathy observed during hypothermia is, in part, independent of clotting factor levels.