Among other parameters, varying blood flow values may be responsible for tumor-to-tumor variabilities in the radiobiologically hypoxic cell fraction of experimental rodent tumors. To test whether changes in tumor blood flow may be caused by anesthetic agents often used in radiobiology, the effect of injectable and inhalational anesthetics and of neuroleptic, neuroleptanalgesic, and sedative agents on blood flow in subcutaneous DS-carcinosarcomas implanted in Sprague-Dawley rats has been investigated using the 85Kr clearance technique. In conscious rats, 20-100 min after animal instrumentation mean blood flow is 0.62 +/- 0.17 ml/g/min (mean +/- SD) in 0.75 +/- 0.15 g tumors at a mean arterial blood pressure of 125 +/- 12 mm Hg. In animals receiving thiobutabarbital, chloral hydrate, or methoxyflurane tumor blood flow is somewhat higher than that measured in conscious rats. Tumor blood flow in animals receiving etomidate, ketamine-xylazine, fentanyl-fluanisone, or urethane is significantly lower than that in the thiobutabarbital group and somewhat lower than in the conscious animals. Blood flow values observed with midazolam, ketamine-midazolam, fentanyl-droperidol, droperidol, diazepam, and pentobarbital are similar to those measured in conscious rats. Virtually no flow alterations with time are detectable in conscious rats and with most of the drugs used. In animals anesthetized with urethane or methoxyflurane, tumor blood flow increases and tumor vascular resistance diminishes slightly with time.