We compared the relative abilities of unfractionated heparin and annexin V to prevent fibrin accretion onto injured jugular veins in vivo. Heparin was used to accelerate the inhibition of thrombin by antithrombin III, and annexin V was used to inhibit the assembly of the prothrombinase complex on phospholipid surfaces, thereby blocking thrombin generation. Rabbit jugular veins were isolated in situ, a 2 cm segment was injured by perfusing it with air, and then blood flow was re-established. Five minutes later, each rabbit was injected with heparin (20 U/kg) or annexin V (0.3 mg/kg) and then with 125I-fibrinogen. The amount of 125I-fibrin accumulation onto each injured vessel wall segment was measured 4 h later. Each injured vessel was completely deendothelialized as a result of the air perfusion as demonstrated by electron microscopy. 125I-fibrin accretion onto the injured jugular veins was enhanced 2.4-fold as compared to the uninjured veins in sham-operated animals. Heparin treatment did not reduce fibrin accretion, whereas, annexin V treatment decreased fibrin accretion by 60%, p <0.05. This latter effect was achieved without sustained circulating anticoagulation. Additional experiments confirmed that the inhibitory effect of annexin V on fibrin accretion was associated with a surface specific effect, since more annexin V bound to the injured jugular vein segments as compared to the non-injured jugular veins. We conclude that, i) mild vessel wall injury (selective de-endothelialization) in veins results in a thrombogenic vessel wall; ii) the thrombogenecity of which is not inhibited by prophylactic doses of heparin; but iii) is inhibited by annexin V, which binds to injured vessel wall surface, and inhibits thrombin generation independently of antithrombin III.