The diagnosis of B-cell lymphoma (BCL) is often dependent on the detection of clonal immunoglobulin (Ig) light chain expression. In some BCLs, the determination of clonality based on Ig light chain restriction may be difficult. The aim of our study was to assess the utility of flow cytometric analysis of surface Ig heavy chain (HC) expression in lymphoid tissues in distinguishing lymphoid hyperplasias from BCLs, and also differentiating various BCL subtypes. HC expression on B-cells varied among different types of hyperplasias. In follicular hyperplasia, IgM and IgD expression was high in mantle cells while germinal center cells showed poor HC expression. In other hyperplasias, B cell compartments were blurred but generally showed high IgD and IgM expression. Compared to hyperplasias, BCLs varied in IgM expression. Small lymphocytic lymphomas had lower IgM expression than mantle cell lymphomas. Of importance, IgD expression was significantly lower in BCLs than in hyperplasias, a finding that can be useful in differentiating lymphoma from reactive processes.