A sensitive thrombosis model with a high reproducibility was developed in the rat, utilizing stasis of the caval vein and a standardized surgical trauma as the only thrombogenic stimuli. Since no procoagulant substances were used, the results of the present study might be relevant in a clinical situation. The antithrombotic effect of two recently synthesized low-molecular-weight thrombin inhibitors have been compared to dalteparin, (Fragmin) a low-molecular-weight heparin fragment. Each compound was studied at 8 different doses with 10 rats in each group. On a gravimetric basis, the thrombin inhibitor melagatran was twice as potent as dalteparin (ED50 16 and 33 microg/kg per h, respectively). The second thrombin inhibitor, inogatran, had an intermediate effect, with an ED50 of 24 microg/kg per h. No differences in antithrombotic effect were, however, found when the compounds were compared at anticoagulant equivalent doses (same APTT prolongation). A 50% reduction in the mean thrombus weight was obtained when APTT was prolonged to 1.2 to 1.3 times the pretreatment value.