Platelet adhesion to the exposed surface of the extracellular matrix in flowing blood is the first and critical reaction for in vivo thrombus formation. However, the mechanism of this in vivo platelet adhesion has yet to be studied extensively. One of the reasons for this is the lack of a practical assay method for assessing platelet adhesion under flow conditions. We have devised an assay method (the fluorescent adhesion assay) that is based on the technique originally reported by Hubbell and McIntire (Biomaterials 7:354, 1986) with some modifications to make it more amenable for assaying small samples and have developed an analysis method to quantify the extent of platelet adhesion and aggregation from fluorescence images by using a computer-assisted image analysis system. In our assay, platelet adhesion, expressed as the percentage of the area covered by adhered platelets, was found to increase biphasically as a function of time. In the first phase, platelets interacted with the coated collagen, transiently stopping on the surface; we called this reaction the temporary arrest. In the second phase, platelets adhered much more rapidly and permanently on the surface, and this adhesion was dependent on the shear rate; platelets formed aggregates in this phase. We used our assay to analyze the effects of platelet aggregation inhibitors on platelet adhesion. All three examined inhibitors, EDTA (10 mmol/L), antiglycoprotein (GP) IIb/IIIa, and GRGDS peptide (1 mmol/L), inhibited the second phase adhesion in flowing blood. Furthermore, GPVI-deficient platelets also showed defective second-phase adhesion under the same conditions. These results suggested that GPIIb/IIIa activation and GPVI contribute to the reaction inducing the second phase. The second-phase adhesion has been extensively investigated, and the consensus is that this reaction is mainly attributable to the platelet-platelet interaction. In this report, we were able to detect an earlier reaction, the temporary arrest. This temporary arrest would reflect the fast and weak interaction between platelet GPIb/IX and collagen-von Willebrand factor complexes on the collagen-coated surface.