Clotting mechanisms, the coagulation cascade, platelet function, and platelet-leukocyte-endothelial cell interactions are all very similar in humans and pigs. Because of these similarities, the authors concluded that the pig would be an ideal model for the study of thromboembolism resulting from prosthetic heart valves. To date, they have successfully recovered a total of 11 pigs (52.9 +/- 8.1 kg), 3 with bioprosthetic valves and 8 with mechanical valves, all in the mitral position (25 mm od). The normal presence of high numbers of pulmonary endothelial macrophages and other unique aspects of porcine cardiovascular and pulmonary function dictate somewhat different surgical protocols than those normally used for human patients and ruminant species. Some of these special procedures include 1) crystalloid prime without the use of plasma volume expanders, especially those with a starch base; 2) pharmacologic protection against arrhythmias (lidocaine, 4 mg/kg); 3) special attention to adequate hypothermic cardioprotection during the time of cross-clamp; 4) the use of shock doses of corticosteroid (prednisolone sodium succinate, 0.5 mg/kg) before removal of the aortic cross-clamp; and 5) positive inotropic support (dopamine, 0.008 mg/kg) while weaning from cardiopulmonary bypass. Gamma camera images of 111In tagged autologous platelets 24 hours after surgery show most thrombi located on the sewing ring with fewer on the pledgets and anchor sutures. The latter observations were confirmed by quantification of platelet deposition using a gamma counter.