Microcystins are among the most commonly detected toxins associated with cyanobacteria blooms worldwide. Two episodes of intravenous microcystin exposures occurred among kidney dialysis patients during 1996 and 2001. Analysis of serum samples collected during these episodes suggests that microcystins are detectable as free and bound forms in human serum. Our goal was to characterize the biochemical evidence for human exposure to microcystins, to identify uncertainties associated with interpretation of these observed results, and to identify research needs. We analyzed serum samples using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods to detect free microcystins, and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) to detect 2-methyl-3-methoxy-4-phenylbutyric acid (MMPB). MMPB is derived from both free and protein-bound microcystins by chemical oxidation, and it appears to represent total microcystins present in serum. We found evidence of free microcystins in patient serum for more than 50 days after the last documented exposure. Serum concentrations of free microcystins were consistently lower than MMPB quantification of total microcystins: free microcystins as measured by ELISA were only 8-51% of total microcystin concentrations as detected by the GC/MS method. After intravenous exposure episodes, we found evidence of microcystins in human serum in free and protein-bound forms, though the nature of the protein-bound forms is uncertain. Free microcystins appear to be a small but variable subset of total microcystins present in human serum. Research is needed to elucidate the human toxicokinetics of microcystins, in part to determine how observed serum concentrations can be used to estimate previous microcystin exposure.