The impingement of a submerged, liquid jet onto a cell-covered surface allows assessing cell attachment on surfaces in a straightforward and quantitative manner and in real time, yielding valuable information on cell adhesion. However, this approach is insufficiently characterized for reliable and routine use. In this work, we both model and measure the shear stress exerted by the jet on the impingement surface in the micrometer-domain, and subsequently correlate this to jet-induced cell detachment. The measured and numerically calculated shear stress data are in good agreement with each other, and with previously published values. Real-time monitoring of the cell detachment reveals the creation of a circular cell-free area upon jet impingement, with two successive detachment regimes: 1), a dynamic regime, during which the cell-free area grows as a function of both the maximum shear stress exerted by the jet and the jet diameter; followed by 2), a stationary regime, with no further evolution of the cell-free area. For the latter regime, which is relevant for cell adhesion strength assessment, a relationship between the jet Reynolds number, the cell-free area, and the cell adhesion strength is proposed. To illustrate the capability of the technique, the adhesion strength of HeLa cervical cancer cells is determined ((34 +/- 14) N/m(2)). Real-time visualization of cell detachment in the dynamic regime shows that cells detach either cell-by-cell or by collectively (for which intact parts of the monolayer detach as cell sheets). This process is dictated by the cell monolayer density, with a typical threshold of (1.8 +/- 0.2) x 10(9) cells/m(2), above which the collective behavior is mostly observed. The jet impingement method presents great promises for the field of tissue engineering, as the influence of both the shear stress and the surface characteristics on cell adhesion can be systematically studied.