The potential importance of pleural fibrin deposition in the pathogenesis of pleural injury is supported by both clinical and experimental observations. We hypothesized that the local equilibrium between procoagulant and fibrinolytic activities is disrupted to favor fibrin deposition in exudative pleuritis. To test this hypothesis, we characterized procoagulant and fibrinolytic activities in pleural exudates from patients with pneumonia, lung cancer, or empyema and transudates from patients with congestive heart failure. Procoagulant activity was generally increased in exudative processes and was due mainly to tissue factor. All effusions contained antithrombin III and inhibited factor Xa and thrombin, but endogenous prothrombinase or thrombin activities were variably detected. Pleural fluid fibrinolytic activity was increased in congestive heart failure and was due to both tissue plasminogen activator and urokinase. Depressed fibrinolytic activity was found in pleural exudates despite increased concentrations of plasminogen, mainly glu-1-plasminogen, and was due to inhibition of plasminogen activation by plasminogen activator inhibitors 1 and 2 and of plasmin, in part by α2-antiplasmin. Concentrations of PAI-1 in exudative pleural fluids were increased up to 913-fold, compared with normal pooled plasma. Exudative pleural effusions are characterized by increased procoagulant and depressed fibrinolytic activity, favoring fibrin deposition in the pleural space. The balance of these activities is reversed and favors fibrin clearance in congestive heart failure. Concurrent local abnormalities of pathways of fibrin formation and its clearance promote fibrin deposition associated with pleural injury.