Antithrombotic therapy is a crucial component of interventional cardiology and currently involves the administration of both anticoagulant and antiplatelet agents. The implementation of standard dual or triple antiplatelet therapies has allowed percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) with stent implantation to become the treatment of choice in most patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS), particularly in patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. However, the combined use of antithrombotic agents increases the bleeding risk associated with coronary intervention, which is a concern due to the increasing evidence that bleeding complications are associated with a higher risk of ischaemic events and death. The shortcomings of currently available anticoagulant drugs have promoted the ongoing development of new, powerful anticoagulant agents that have both efficacy in the setting of PCI and a reduced risk of bleeding; one of these classes of agents targets the thrombin molecule, a key factor in the coagulation cascade, and belongs to the class of anticoagulants known as direct thrombin inhibitors (DTIs). Bivalirudin, a synthetic peptide, is a DTI with unique, favourable pharmacological properties that include predictable linear pharmacokinetics. Bivalirudin was approved as an anticoagulant in patients undergoing routine PCI in 2000 by the FDA (in 2004 in Europe and Australia) and more recently in patients with ACS undergoing PCI. The pharmacological properties of bivalirudin, along with current indications for its use, are discussed in this review, with a focus on the major completed and ongoing clinical trials with bivalirudin.