Thrombocytopenia and impaired platelet function are known as intrinsic drawbacks of cardiac surgery and extracorporeal life supports (ECLS). A number of different factors influence platelet count and function including the inflammatory response to a cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) or to ECLS, hemodilution, hypothermia, mechanical damage and preoperative treatment with platelet-inhibiting agents. Moreover, although underestimated, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia is still a hiccup in the perioperative management of cardiac surgical and, above all, ECLS patients. Moreover, recent investigations have highlighted how platelet disorders also affect patients undergoing biological prosthesis implantation. Though many hypotheses have been suggested, the mechanism underlying thrombocytopenia and platelet disorders is still to be cleared. This narrative review aims to offer clinicians a summary of their major causes in the cardiac surgery setting.