BACKGROUND Dysbalance of the coagulation and fibrinolysis system was suspected to be a further risk factor for the progression of peripheral occlusive arterial disease (POAD). Reports on disturbed platelet function in advanced disease, however, were contradictory. Therefore, we studied haemostasis parameters and platelet function in symptomatic patients with peripheral arterial disease. METHODS 60 peripheral arterial disease patients hospitalised for invasive diagnostic procedures were included into this comparative study. Patients were clinically stratified according to the criteria for chronic limb ischemia (grade I: n=36; grade II: n=11; grade III: n=13). Plasma fibrinogen, antithrombin III, von Willebrand factor, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) prothrombin time, and activated partial thromboplastin time were determined using standard methods. We measured flow cytometrically, the platelet activation marker P-selectin on nonstimulated, ADP- and TRAP-6-stimulated platelets. Angiographic data were assessed using the Bollinger score. RESULTS Plasma levels of the procoagulant proteins fibrinogen (grade I: 3.7/grade II: 3.9/grade m: 4.0 g/l) and vWF (158/156/178%) increased and of antithrombin III (109/103/102%) and the PAI-1/tPA ratio (5.2/5.0/4.1) decreased with progressive disease. Highest platelet activation levels were observed in the CLI grade II subgroup. A significant correlation of disease severity was seen with the ankle-brachial pressure index (p=0.006; r=0.39) and with the Bollinger score (p=0.002; r=-0.41). CONCLUSIONS Progressive peripheral obstructive arterial disease was associated with platelet hyper-reactivity, haemostatic dysbalance of pro- and anticoagulant proteins, and a counterregulatory increase of fibrinolytic activity. Therapeutic concepts should include these pathogenetic mechanisms.