Most of the indications for cardiovascular operation and many of its complications are in large part due to advanced atherosclerosis. The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis involves inflammatory infiltration of the vessel wall, cellular proliferation, fibrous plaque formation, and ultimately plaque rupture and occlusive thrombosis. Many of these events are linked, at least initially, to chronic injury of the vascular endothelium. Endothelial cell injury from hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, fluctuating shear stress, smoking, or transplant rejection disrupts normal endothelial cell function. This results in the loss of the constitutive protective mechanisms and an increase in inflammatory, procoagulant, vasoactive, and fibroproliferative responses to injury. These changes promote vasospasm, intimal proliferation, and thrombus formation, all of which play a significant role in the initiation, progression, and clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis. Understanding the role of the chronically injured endothelium and its interactions with circulating immune cells and the underlying smooth muscle cells may lead to novel therapeutic interventions for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.