The antiphospholipid syndrome is defined as the association between the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies, detected as anticardiolipin antibodies and/or lupus anticoagulant, and a history of either arterial or venous thrombosis and/or recurrent pregnancy loss. Because thrombosis may occur in virtually any organ system, diagnosing the antiphospholipid syndrome and taking appropriate anticoagulation measures are important considerations in all medical specialties. Antiphospholipid antibody-associated thrombosis tends to recur. Antithrombotic prophylaxis to prevent recurrences is therefore needed. Prophylaxis in individuals with circulating antiphospholipid antibodies who have no history of thrombosis is still controversial. Although direct evidence for a pathogenetic role of antiphospholipid antibodies in the development of thrombosis is still lacking, recent studies suggest that it is causative rather than coincidental. New insights on the possible mechanisms leading to thrombosis were provided by the discovery of the serum cofactor (beta2-GPI), a coagulation inhibitor which is required for binding of anticardiolipin antibodies to cardiolipin. More recently, patients with antiphospholipid antibodies were found to possess autoantibodies directed against other coagulation factors, including prothrombin, protein C and protein S. Future studies should clarify whether these different antigenic specificities are associated with particular clinical events and assess the risk of thrombosis associated with the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies in asymptomatic individuals.