PURPOSE: We determined the sensitivity and specificity of detecting flat bladder carcinoma in situ through fluorescent detection after intravesical hypericin instillations. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study included 40 patients, of whom 26 presented with macroscopic visible tumor, 9 had a positive cytology without visible tumor and 5 underwent cystoscopy after bacillus Calmette-Guerin instillations (4) or radiotherapy (1). We instilled 40 ml. of a 8 microM. solution of hypericin intravesically for at least 2 hours. Fluorescence excitation with blue light was effective up to 16 hours after termination of the instillation. RESULTS: All visible papillary tumors showed red fluorescence. In addition, 134 flat fluorescent areas were detected. Analysis of 281 biopsies from flat bladder wall indicated 93% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity for detecting carcinoma in situ. Visible lesions resulting from radiotherapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy did not show any fluorescent signs and, therefore, did not induce false-positive readings. There were no signs of photobleaching during inspection and resection. CONCLUSIONS: We report a simple yet comprehensive endoscopic method for early detection of bladder cancer, including carcinoma in situ. Hypericin induced fluorescence has a high sensitivity and specificity for detection of bladder transitional cell carcinoma, papillary and flat carcinoma in situ. When carcinoma in situ is suspected, this technique is highly recommended.