We have examined if sevoflurane anaesthesia per se modified the number of circulating leucocytes in humans. Fifty-nine patients undergoing elective surgery were anaesthetized with sevoflurane in oxygen. The inhaled concentration was increased gradually to 5% and maintained for 20 min. Arterial blood samples were obtained before induction of anaesthesia and at 20 min. While the total number of leucocytes remained constant, circulating neutrophils decreased (mean 3370 (SD 1030) mm-3 to 3170 (940) mm-3; P < 0.01) and lymphocytes increased (1870 (520) mm-3 to 2040 (580) mm-3; P < 0.01). We conclude that high concentrations of sevoflurane modified the distribution of leucocytes in anaesthetized patients.