Over the past decade, research in blood platelet physiology has led to the suggestion that platelets play an important part in the pathogenesis and complications of coronary artery disease. Occlusive intravascular platelet aggregates have been shown to cause ischemic myocardial damage in the experimental animal and to be present in some patients who die suddenly. The interplay between endothelial damage and platelet aggregation has been implicated in the etiology of atherosclerosis. Products released from platelets during aggregation may cause arterial spasm. Patients with overt ischemic heart disease and with the risk factors associated with coronary artery disease have been found to have abnormally reactive platelets. Clinical studies of drugs that inhibit platelet aggregation have been reported to show a beneficial effect in preventing cardiac deaths or myocardial infarction; other studies have been negative or shown only a trend toward benefit. This report reviews the theoretical and experimental basis for the platelet hypothesis and the current data on the use of antiplatelet drugs in patients with coronary disease.