Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations are a strong determinant of tumor response to gefitinib in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We attempted to elucidate the feasibility of EGFR mutation detection in cells of pleural effusion fluid. We obtained 24 samples of pleural effusion fluid from NSCLC patients. The pleural effusion fluid was centrifuged, and the cellular components obtained were used for detection. EGFR mutation status was determined by a direct sequencing method (exons 18-21) and by the Scorpion Amplified Refractory Mutation System (ARMS) method. EGFR mutations were detected in eight cases. Three mutations were detected by both methods, and the other five mutations were detected by Scorpion ARMS alone. The mutations were detected by both methods in all four partial responders among the seven patients who received gefitinib therapy. Direct sequencing detected the mutations in only two of four cases with partial response. These results suggest that the DNA in pleural effusion fluid can be used to detect EGFR mutations. The Scorpion ARMS method appears to be more sensitive for detecting EGFR mutations than the direct sequencing method.