The effects of iloprost, a chemically stable compound with prostacyclin mimetic activity, on exercise capacity and platelet aggregation were assessed in 24 patients with effort angina and proved critical (at least 70% diameter narrowing) coronary artery disease. Upright bicycle ergometer testing (25-W increments every 2 minutes) was performed during drug and placebo infusions using a crossover, randomized, single-blind protocol. Samples for measurements of adenosine diphosphate-induced platelet aggregation in platelet-rich plasma were obtained in all patients before and during the study. Compared with placebo, intravenous iloprost consistently (p less than 0.001) prolonged exercise duration and time to onset of significant (0.1 mV) ST depression. Angina and ST depression occurred at a greater heart rate and rate-pressure product. Benefits were remarkable in some patients (67%) and not in others. Iloprost administration resulted in reduced platelet aggregation at peak exercise in all patients, whether they had consistent or little response to the drug. Thus, iloprost administration may improve exercise capacity in patients with stable exertional angina pectoris. Improvements are independent of changes in the major determinants of myocardial oxygen demand and associated with markedly reduced platelet aggregation, which may account for increased myocardial perfusion in patients with high sensitivity to coronary constriction.