The aim of this series of experiments was to determine the dynamic blood flow changes that occur in normal and neoplastic tissues during photodynamic therapy. Mice bearing SMT-F tumors and rats with transplanted chondrosarcomas were injected with graded doses of dihematoporphyrin ether. Studies of changes in single-vessel and whole-tumor blood flow were carried out with 630 nm light activation. A helium neon laser Doppler velocimeter was used to stimulate dihematoporphyrin ether, as well as to measure changes in flow velocity in both single-vessel and whole-tumor models. There was a reduction of flow velocity in all vessels and tumors in animals injected with 1 to 40 mg/kg dihematoporphyrin ether intraperitoneally. The extent of flow reduction was related to drug dose administered. Decreases in blood flow began within 10 seconds of light stimulation and were maximal within 5 minutes. Both normal and tumor vessels responded similarly. We conclude that photodynamic therapy leads to significant microcirculatory changes that may be pertinent to the mechanism of tumor necrosis.