Available volatile anaesthetics are safe and efficacious; however, their varying pharmacology provides small but potentially clinically important differences. Desflurane is one of the third-generation inhaled anaesthetics. It is the halogenated inhaled anaesthetic with the lowest blood and tissue solubilities, which promotes its rapid equilibration and its rapid elimination following cessation of administration at the end of anaesthesia. The low fat solubility of desflurane provides pharmacological benefits, especially in overweight patients and in longer procedures by reducing slow compartment accumulation. A decade of clinical use has provided evidence for desflurane's safe and efficacious use as a general anaesthetic. Its benefits include rapid and predictable emergence, and early recovery. In addition, the use of desflurane promotes early and predictable extubation, and the ability to rapidly transfer patients from the operating theatre to the recovery area, which has a positive impact on patient turnover. Desflurane also increases the likelihood of patients, including obese patients, recovering their protective airway reflexes and awakening to a degree sufficient to minimise the stay in the high dependency recovery area. The potential impact of the rapid early recovery from desflurane anaesthesia on intermediate and late recovery and resumption of activities of daily living requires further study.