The cuffed oropharyngeal airway is a modified Guedel airway with a distal inflatable cuff and a proximal connector for attachment to an anaesthesia circuit. The purpose of this study was to evaluate this device for spontaneous ventilation anaesthesia in 100 adult patients. Anaesthesia was induced with fentanyl and propofol and maintained with nitrous oxide and isoflurane in oxygen. The device was inserted when anaesthetic depth was judged to be adequate. Adverse airway events and interventions (i.e. manoeuvres performed in order to provide a clear airway) were analysed from video recordings and detailed notes. The position of the device was assessed fibreoptically during spontaneous ventilation. The device provided a clear airway in 98% of patients during manually assisted ventilation, in 100% during spontaneous ventilation and in 100% during emergence. However, 91% of patients required at least one airway intervention at some time. Jaw lift was required for 33% of the time during manually assisted ventilation and 21% of the time during spontaneous ventilation. Most interventions occurred during the first 3 min of either manually assisted or spontaneous ventilation. The incidence of adverse airway events during manually assisted ventilation was 8%, during spontaneous ventilation was 5% and during emergence was 5%. Oxygen saturation briefly fell to between 87 and 89% on six occasions. On fibreoptic assessment, the vocal cords were visible in 29% of patients on fibreoptic assessment and the epiglottis was visible in 90%. Mild sore throat occurred in 4% of patients. We conclude that the cuffed oropharyngeal airway is suitable for spontaneous ventilation anaesthesia and has a low complication rate but that most patients require one or more interventions to provide a clear airway.