A total of 75 samples of body cavity fluids from 71 patients were analyzed by both flow cytometry (FCM), to detect cells with an abnormal DNA content (aneuploidy), and by conventional cytopathology. Samples included 27 pleural fluids, 35 peritoneal fluids, 11 peritoneal washings and 2 pericardial fluids. For cytologic examination, the samples were prepared using standard techniques. Samples for FCM analysis were centrifuged and exposed to a hypotonic solution containing detergent and propidium iodide, a DNA intercalating fluorescent stain. Aneuploidy as well as cytologic malignancy were found in 17 samples. Forty-seven samples had normal DNA histograms by FCM and were also cytologically negative. Four samples suspicious by cytology but normal by FCM were from patients with renal-cell carcinoma (two samples from the same patient), endometrial adenocarcinoma without metastasis and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Three samples abnormal by FCM but negative by cytology were from patients with ovarian cystadenoma, cirrhosis and uterine leiomyoma. FCM showed aneuploidy in four cytologically negative samples from patients with histologically proven malignancy (lymphoma, colonic adenocarcinoma, cervical squamous cell carcinoma, and endometrial adenosquamous carcinoma). Based on these results, FCM analysis combined with conventional cytopathology yielded 100% sensitivity, 100% predictive value of a negative result and 94% specificity. This rapid and quantitative FCM analysis of body cavity fluids can be a very useful adjunct to conventional diagnostic cytopathology.