This study was designed to determine the postnatal development of the human coagulation system in the healthy premature infant. Consecutive mothers of healthy premature infants born at either St Joseph's Hospital or McMaster University Medical Centre in Hamilton were asked for consent. One hundred thirty-seven premature infants (30 to 36 weeks of gestational age) entered the study. The premature infants did not have any major health problems and did not require ventilation or supplemental oxygen. Demographic information and a 20-mL blood sample were obtained in the postnatal period on days 1, 5, 30, 90, and 180. Between 40 and 96 premature infants were studied on each day for each of the following tests: prothrombin time, activated partial thromboplastin time, thrombin clotting time, plasminogen; 13 factor assays [fibrinogen, II, V, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, high-mol-wt kininogen (HMWK), prekallikrein (PK), von Willebrand factor (vWF)] and eight inhibitors [antithrombin III (AT-III), heparin cofactor II, alpha 2-antiplasmin, alpha 2-macroglobulin, alpha 1-antitrypsin, C1 esterase inhibitor, protein C (PC), and protein S (PS)]. A combination of biologic and immunologic assays were used. Between 30 to 36 weeks there was a minimal effect of gestational age for levels of AT-III, PC, and factors II and X only; therefore, the entire data set was used to generate reference ranges for these components of the coagulation system for premature infants. Next, the results for the premature infants were compared with those of a previously published study in 118 fullterm infants and with those for adults. An effect of gestational age was shown for plasminogen, fibrinogen, factors II, V, VIII, IX, XI, XII, HMWK, and all eight inhibitors. In general, the postnatal maturation towards adult levels was accelerated in premature infants as compared with the fullterm infants. By 6 months of age, most components of the coagulation system in premature infants had achieved near adult values.