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The bispectral index, a new processed electroencephalographic parameter which may give information on depth of anaesthesia, was used in 58 patients undergoing outpatient gynaecological surgery in order to study if the addition of bispectral index monitoring to standard clinical monitoring could improve the titration of target propofol concentration when using effect-site target-controlled propofol infusion for sedation. In Group 1 (n = 30), the bispectral index was recorded but the anaesthetist was unaware of the readings and therefore only classical signs of depth of anaesthesia were used to guide the anaesthetist in controlling the effect-site concentration. In Group 2 (n = 28), bispectral index readings were available to the anaesthetist and effect-site concentration was adjusted to ensure that bispectral index was maintained between 40 and 60. Similar propofol induction and maintenance doses, blood and effect-site concentrations and mean bispectral index were found in the two groups. A greater percentage of bispectral index readings lying outside the target range (i.e. < 40 or > 60) and more movement at incision and during maintenance were found in Group 1. There was a trend towards more implicit awareness in patients in Group 1. Bispectral index was found to be useful for measuring depth of sedation when using propofol target-controlled infusion. Propofol dosage could not be decreased but a more consistent level of sedation could be maintained due to a more satisfactory titration of target effect-site concentration.