We have examined sensory block during lumbar epidural anaesthesia using a cutaneous current perception threshold (CPT) sensory testing device in 20 patients who received 10 ml of either 1% or 2% lidocaine (lignocaine). CPT at 2000, 250 and 5 Hz stimulation at the trigeminal (V), ninth thoracic (T9) and second lumbar (L2) dermatomes, and dermatomal levels of block to light touch, temperature and pinprick discrimination were measured before and every 5 min until 60 min after epidural lidocaine. There were significant differences between 1% and 2% epidural lidocaine in all CPT at T9 and L2, in addition to maximal cephalad spread of the three sensory modalities. After 2% lidocaine, all CPT increased significantly at T9 and L2. In contrast, only at 250 and 5 Hz for L2 did epidural block with 1% lidocaine produce significant increases in CPT. Maximal level of loss of touch sensation after 1% lidocaine was significantly lower than that of cold and pinprick sensations. We conclude that the dose of lidocaine affected intensity of sensory block during lumbar epidural anaesthesia. In addition, differential neural block resulting from epidural anaesthesia appeared to be associated with a differential effect on nerve fibres of different sizes.