Intravascular catheters are prone to staphylococcal infections. To study the role in staphylococcal adherence played by fibrinogen or fibrin and fibronectin deposited on inserted catheters, 187 peripheral or central cannulae were prospectively removed from hospitalized patients. Compared with uninserted catheters, which allowed only minimal adherence, previously inserted catheters promoted significant adherence of staphylococcal isolates from patients with intravenous device infection. Adhesion-promoting properties were studied with laboratory strains having well-defined affinities for either fibronectin or fibrinogen: adherence of Staphylococcus aureus Cowan I, which has the highest affinity for both adhesins, was more strongly promoted (10- to 50-fold) on inserted cannulae than was that of S. aureus Wood 46 (4- to 10-fold) or Staphylococcus epidermidis Rp 12 (2.2-fold), which has no affinity for fibrinogen but does for fibronectin. Although all types of cannulae contained significant amounts of fibrin, which may promote adherence of coagulase-positive staphylococci, results obtained with coagulase-negative isolates suggested that in vivo-deposited fibronectin is also a critical determinant in this process.