The intra-operative blood loss of 50 consecutive gynae-oncology patients undergoing surgery for endometrial, cervical or ovarian cancer was cell salvaged and filtered. In each case blood samples were taken from the effluent tumour vein, a central venous line, the cell saver reservoir, the cell salvage re-transfusion bag after processing but before filtration and from the cell salvage re-transfusion bag after processing and filtration. Samples were examined using immunohistochemical monoclonal antibody markers for epithelial cell lines. Viable, nucleated malignant cells were detected in 2/50 central venous samples, 34/50 reservoir samples and 31/50 unfiltered cell salvaged samples. After passage through a Pall RS leucocyte depletion filter no remaining viable, nucleated malignant cells were detected in any sample. The clinical risks of cell salvage in these circumstances should be reviewed in the light of the risks of allogeneic blood transfusion.