The relevance of coagulation abnormalities in ischemic stroke remains uncertain. The purpose of this study was to identify abnormal patterns of coagulation in established ischemic stroke. We measured coagulation parameters in 86 patients with acute ischemic stroke: 10 lacunar, 55 atherothrombotic and 21 cardioembolic. Statistical comparisons were made between different stroke groups and between all stroke patients and 60 healthy controls. A decrease in functional antithrombin III and plasminogen and an increase in thrombin-antithrombin III complexes, total protein S, tissue plasminogen activator, plasminogen activator inhibitor and D-dimer were observed in the stroke group (p < 0.05). A positive correlation was found between tissue plasminogen activator and thrombin-antithrombin III levels in cardioembolic stroke (p < 0.05). Protein C levels showed significant differences between the three groups, and in the cardioembolic group they were lower than in controls (p < 0.05). Antiphospholipid antibodies were positive in two cases. We conclude that activation of coagulation and fibrinolytic pathways was observed during the acute phase of ischemic stroke. Protein C activity is different in the three types of strokes analyzed, and higher levels seem to be associated with lacunar lesions. Antiphospholipid antibodies do not seem to play an important role in the pathogenesis of stroke in a nonselected population.