Prior studies showed that postoperative increase in plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) levels is associated with an increased risk of graft occlusion after coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). This prospective study aimed to compare the changes of PAI-1 antigen levels after off-pump and on-pump CABG. Forty-four patients admitted for elective CABG were randomised to on-pump (n = 22) or off-pump (n = 22) surgery. Serum samples were collected for estimation of PAI-1 and tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) antigen levels preoperatively and 2 h after the operation. The groups were similar in terms of age, weight, gender ratio and extent of coronary disease, left ventricular function and number of grafts per patient. Fibrinogen and t-PA levels increased postoperatively in both the groups when compared with baseline values. After operation, statistical analysis revealed that increase of PAI-1 values was higher in off-pump group (44.1 +/- 9.1 vs. 25.3 +/- 6.9) than on-pump group (37.2 +/- 5.5 vs. 27.3 +/- 7.8, p = 0.002). This study shows that increase in PAI-1 antigen values in patients who undergo off-pump (beating heart) CABG is significantly higher than in those who undergo conventional CABG with cardiopulmonary bypass.