The effect of intravenous 1-deamino (8-D-arginine)vasopressin (DDAVP) administration on platelet interaction with human artery subendothelium was investigated with flowing blood from five normal individuals and 12 patients with von Willebrand's disease (vWD). Three of the patients were diagnosed as vWD subtype I, four as subtype IIa, and five as subtype IIb. DDAVP administration to normals enhanced platelet adherence, in parallel with increasing plasma levels of factor VIII-related antigen ( FVIIIR :Ag) and ristocetin cofactor activity ( FVIIIR :RCF). Platelet aggregate formation was transiently increased within 90 minutes. Platelet adherence in patient blood before DDAVP infusion was subnormal. In patients with subtype I, administration of DDAVP normalized the bleeding time, enhanced the platelet adherence, and transiently improved the platelet aggregate formation. The platelet adherence was more corrected than would have been expected on the basis of the FVIIIR :Ag and FVIIIR :RCF levels. In patients with subtype IIa, infusion of DDAVP increased the FVIIIR :Ag levels approximately threefold, without affecting the FVIIIR :RCF levels, and in only two of four patients was a transiently enhanced platelet adherence with a corresponding shortening of the bleeding time observed. In patients with subtype IIb, administration of DDAVP increased the FVIIIR :Ag levels about threefold and the FVIIIR :RCF levels five to tenfold, but decreased the platelet adherence significantly. The bleeding time values were not normalized. A close association between the bleeding time values and corresponding platelet adherence values before and after DDAVP infusion was observed. Normalization of the bleeding time was paralleled with normalization of platelet adherence. We conclude that DDAVP improves the primary hemostasis by causing enhanced FVIII-vWF-mediated platelet adherence. DDAVP has little or no effect on the bleeding time in patients with subtype IIa and subtype IIb, because the platelet adherence is not normalized.