We describe an ultrasensitive and quantitative immunochromatographic assay to determine the amount of clenbuterol (CLB) in swine urine. In this study, fluorescein isothiocyanate polystyrene fluorescent microspheres were used as probes. A sample preincubation strategy was introduced to this immunochromatographic assay. Results showed that the strategy evidently improved the sensitivity and accuracy of lateral flow assay. The method was completed in 20 min, and a half-maximal inhibitory concentration of 0.13 μg liter(-1) was obtained. The limit of detection of the proposed method to determine CLB in swine urine was 0.01 μg liter(-1), which was lower than the limit of detection of immunochromatographic assays without preincubation. Intra- and interday recoveries of spiked swine urine ranged from 85.0 to 107.5%. The relative standard deviation values of the preincubated test strip ranged from 2.7 to 12.5%. Analysis of the CLB in swine urine samples showed that the result obtained from the lateral flow assay is consistent with that obtained from a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit. Our results suggest that the developed fluorescent microsphere-based immunochromatographic assay may be useful as a rapid screening method to detect CLB quantitatively.