The response to a standard dose of heparin was studied in 20 patients with venous thromboembolism. The heparin regimen consisted of intravenous injection of 70 units per kg, followed after 90 minutes by a maintenance dose of 400 units per kg per 24 hours given by continuous infusion. Plasma heparin activity and the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) were measured at intervals to determine clearance of the initial injection and the response to maintenance dose. Large inter-individual variations were found in the anticoagulant effect and these were due in part to differences in heparin clearance and in part to differences in the APTT response to given amounts of heparin (heparin effect index). The heparin half-life was 63 +/- 15 minutes when plasma heparin activities were used for this calculation and 84 +/- 71.5 minutes when the APTT was used. These results are similar to values previously reported in normal volunteers. Four of the 20 patients had pulmonary embolism and in these heparin half-life was significantly shortened (P less than 0.005).