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Critical incident monitoring has the advantage of identifying a potential risk to the patient without it necessarily resulting in morbidity. An added advantage in developing countries is the low cost involved in introducing the programme. This paper analyses the incidents reported from the operating room suite in a teaching hospital in a developing country from August 1997 to 31 December 1999. During the period, 20 819 anaesthetics were administered and 329 incidents were reported (1.58% of the cases). Seventy-three per cent of the incidents were reported in patients of ASA grade 1 or 2. Thirty-nine per cent occurred during induction, 51% during maintenance and 10% during emergence. Human error was the cause in 41%, equipment error in 50% and system error in 8.5%. Twenty-two per cent of the incidents resulted in minor, and 13% in major physiological disturbance. The technique has been found useful in identifying trends and selecting issues to be discussed in departmental quality assurance meetings, but requires persistent motivation of the reporting staff.