Although elevated systemic blood pressure (BP) results in high intravascular pressure, the main complications of hypertension are related to thrombosis rather than haemorrhage. It therefore seemed plausible that use of antithrombotic therapy may be useful in preventing thrombosis-related complications of elevated BP. The objectives were to conduct a systematic review of the role of antiplatelet therapy and anticoagulation in patients with BP, to address the following hypotheses: (i) antiplatelet agents reduce total deaths and/or major thrombotic events when compared to placebo or other active treatment; and (ii) oral anticoagulants reduce total deaths and/or major thromboembolic events when compared to placebo or other active treatment. A systematic review of randomised studies in patients with elevated BP was performed. Studies were included if they were >3 months in duration and compared antithrombotic therapy with control or other active treatment. One meta-analysis of antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention in patients with elevated BP reported an absolute reduction in vascular events of 4.1% as compared to placebo. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) did not reduce stroke or 'all cardiovascular events' compared to placebo in primary prevention patients with elevated BP and no prior cardiovascular disease. Based on one large trial, ASA taken for 5 years reduced myocardial infarction (ARR, 0.5%, NNT 200 for 5 years), increased major haemorrhage (ARI, 0.7%, NNT 154), and did not reduce all cause mortality or cardiovascular mortality. In two small trials, warfarin alone or in combination with ASA did not reduce stroke or coronary events. Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors as well as ticlopidine and clopidogrel have not been sufficiently evaluated in patients with elevated BP. To conclude for primary prevention in patients with elevated BP, antiplatelet therapy with ASA cannot be recommended since the magnitude of benefit, a reduction in myocardial infarction, is negated by a harm of similar magnitude, an increase in major haemorrhage. For secondary prevention in patients with elevated BP, antiplatelet therapy is recommended because the magnitude of the absolute benefit is many times greater. Warfarin therapy alone or in combination with aspirin in patients with elevated BP cannot be recommended because of lack of demonstrated benefit. Further trials of antithrombotic therapy are required in patients with elevated BP.