Sample preparation is an essential step in analysis, greatly influencing the reliability and accuracy of resulted the time and cost of analysis. Solid-Phase Microextraction (SPME) is a very simple and efficient, solventless sample preparation method, invented by Pawliszyn in 1989. SPME has been widely used in different fields of analytical chemistry since its first applications to environmental and food analysis and is ideally suited for coupling with mass spectrometry (MS). All steps of the conventional liquid–liquid extraction (LLE) such as extraction, concentration, (derivatization) and transfer to the chromatograph are integrated into one step and one device, considerably simplifying the sample preparation procedure. It uses a fused-silica fibre that is coated on the outside with an appropriate stationary phase. The analytes in the sample are directly extracted to the fibre coating. The SPME technique can be routinely used in combination with gas chromatography, high-performance liquid chromatography and capillary electrophoresis and places no restriction on MS. SPME reduces the time necessary for sample preparation, decreases purchase and disposal costs of solvents and can improve detection limits. The SPME technique is ideally suited for MS applications, combining a simple and efficient sample preparation with versatile and sensitive detection. This review summarizes analytical characteristics and variants of the SPME technique and its applications in combination with MS. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.