Platelets play a central role in primary hemostasis. Analysis of platelet function is therefore a cornerstone in the global assessment of the coagulation status in the perioperative setting, primarily in patients receiving antiplatelet medication, such as cyclooxygenase-1 inhibitors, adenosine diphosphate antagonists and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors. In these patients, knowledge of residual platelet function is highly warranted in order to maintain an optimal and individual balance perioperatively between platelet function and inhibition - that is, bleeding and thrombosis. Traditional laboratory-based assays, such as light-transmission aggregometry and flow cytometry, are the clinical standards of platelet function testing today. Light-transmission aggregometry is one of the most widely used tests to identify and diagnose defects in platelet function. The majority of the conventional laboratory-based techniques are labor intensive, costly and time consuming, and require a high degree of experience and expertise to perform and interpret. Therefore, new automated technologies have been developed to measure platelet function more rapidly and easily, and several techniques can be used at the bedside, including whole blood aggregometry, high shear-induced platelet function assessment or viscoelastic measurement techniques. All methods assessing platelet function are summarized and their limitations are discussed in this article, emphasizing their perioperative use.