The reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay is an extremely sensitive technique for the detection of circulating cells expressing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in prostate cancer patients. This article reviews the literature on the use of this technique as a preoperative parameter to predict both extraprostatic disease and PSA recurrence after radical prostatectomy. Despite the relative consensus regarding the increase in RT-PCR-positivity with tumor stage (i.e., clinically localized vs metastatic prostate cancer), the use of RT-PCR as a clinical staging modality is controversial. To date, more than 16 institutions have evaluated the RT-PCR test in prostate cancer. Of these institutions, only two have reported the utility of RT-PCR as a staging modality and three have reported the utility of the test in predicting PSA recurrence. Before further conclusions are drawn regarding the clinical utility of RT-PCR in prostate cancer patients and its routine use is advocated, a larger patient population needs to be studied and followed for longer periods.