Background: Currently clinical Doppler ultrasound cannot detect microvascular blood flow and it is difficult to provide depth discrimination using laser Doppler flowmetry. Doppler optical coherence tomography (DOCT) is a novel technique for noninvasive subsurface imaging of microcirculation and tissue structure. Aims: To design handheld and catheter-based DOCT probes for clinical cutaneous and endoscopic imaging. To develop signal processing techniques for real-time detection and quantification of microvascular blood flow. Methods: A DOCT system, with interchangeable cutaneous and catheter probes, was developed. The axial spatial resolution was 10 μm, and the velocity resolution was 20 μm/s, using a 1300 nm broadband infrared light. The system achieved real-time imaging with frame rates up to 32 Hz at 512 x 256 pixels per frame. We used the system to detect microcirculation in human skin and rat esophagus, and to monitor microvascular responses to photodynamic therapy (PDT) in a rat tumor model. Results: We present experimental results from in vivo DOCT imaging of microcirculation in human skin arterio-venous malformations (AVM), normal rat esophagus, and a rat gliosarcoma PDT model. In the PDT model, we followed microvascular responses to PDT and observed differences in the microcirculation during and after therapy, which can have important implications for PDT dosimetry and treatment optimization. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of endoscopic catheter-based DOCT detection of microcirculation in vivo . In addition, AVM can be detected using handheld cutaneous DOCT probes under clinical settings. DOCT may serve as a real-time monitoring tool for PDT dosimetry, especially for vascular targeting photosensitizers.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.