Type IIB von Willebrand's disease is a distinct form of this disorder, in which there are abnormal factor VIII/von Willebrand factor multimers in plasma (but normal multimers in platelets) and heightened interaction between the von Willebrand factor and platelets in the presence of ristocetin. We have found that infusion of desmopressin acetate (1-desamino-8-D-arginine vasopressin [DDAVP]), an agent used in the treatment of von Willebrand's disease, causes platelet aggregation and thrombocytopenia in patients with Type IIB disease. In vitro, platelets in normal plasma and those obtained from patients with Type IIB disease before DDAVP infusion aggregated upon the addition of platelet-poor plasma from Type IIB patients treated with DDAVP. Platelet aggregation was associated with adsorption of multimers of factor VIII/von Willebrand factor onto the platelets and was inhibited by EDTA. We conclude that in Type IIB von Willebrand's disease, DDAVP releases an abnormal factor with platelet-aggregating properties. DDAVP should not be used to treat patients with Type IIB disease, since the presence of platelet aggregates in the circulation may be harmful.