Aspirin is proposed to be effective in stroke-prophylaxis because it completely inhibits the platelet prostanoid-pathway. In about 90% of stroke victims, increased platelet reactivity (PR) can be reduced to the normal range by aspirin. Twelve hours later, about one third of them show an enhanced PR again. These patients are called secondary aspirin non responders (SANR). In this study the potential pathogenetic and prognostic impact of this biological feature on stroke recurrence was evaluated. Before discharge from the hospital, PR was determined 12 hours after an oral administration of 500 mg aspirin in 180 patients aged 58 +/- 15 years; 74 were female and 106 male. All had suffered a stroke in the internal carotid artery territory. Patients were treated with 3 x 500 mg aspirin/d and were followed up over a 24-month period. Major endpoints of this study were stroke, myocardial infarction or vascular death. On discharge from the hospital, 120 of the 180 patients showed a normal PR under aspirin treatment. High test values were found in 60 patients (SANR). Six patients were lost for follow-up. Because of side effects 36 (20%) of the 180 patients enrolled discontinued medication. Major endpoints occurred in 4 of these 36 patients (11%) and in 25 of the 138 remaining patients (18.1%); 19 patients died in consequence of a vascular event during the observation period. Major endpoints were seen in only 5 of 114 (4.4%) of the aspirin responders, but in 24 out of 60 SANR (40%, p < 0.0001). It may be assumed that early identification of SANR's is a clinically useful tool to classify patients at high risk for recurrence of vascular events.