Direct thrombin-inhibitors inactivate not only free but also fibrin-bound thrombin. The group of parenteral direct thrombin-inhibitors includes the recombinant hirudins lepirudin and desirudin, the synthetic hirudin bivalirudin, and the small molecule argatroban. All these compounds do not interact with PF4/heparin-antibodies. Therefore, argatroban as well as bivalirudin are currently used to treat heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). The oral direct thrombin-inhibitor dabigatran etexilate is already licensed in many countries for the treatment of non-valvular atrial fibrillation. Dabigatran etexilate reveals a stable and predictable effect that allows a medication without dose adjustment or monitoring. The substance shows only few interactions with other drugs but strong inhibitors of p-glycoprotein can increase plasma levels of dabigatran substantially. After oral intake, the prodrug dabigatran etexilate is cleaved by esterase-mediated hydrolyses to the active compound dabigatran. Elimination of dabigatran is predominantly renal. Safety and efficacy of dabigatran etexilate were tested in an extensive clinical study program. Non-inferiority compared to current standard treatments was shown for prophylaxis of venous thromboembolic events after total knee and hip replacement, for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation, and for treatment of acute venous thromboembolism. In daily practice, Dabigatran etexilate competes against the new direct factor Xa-inhibitors. In the absence of direct comparative clinical trials, it is not yet clear if one class of substances has distinct advantages over the other.