We administered 0.5% plain bupivacaine 4 ml intrathecally (L2-3 or L3-4) in three groups of 20 patients, according to the position in which they were nursed in the post-anaesthesia care unit (PACU): supine horizontal, 30 degrees Trendelenburg or hammock position (trunk and legs 30 degrees elevated). Patients were observed until anaesthesia descended to less than S1. The incidence of severe bradycardia (heart rate < 50 beat min-1) in the PACU was significantly higher in patients in the Trendelenburg position (60%) than in the horizontal (20%, P < 0.01) or hammock (10%, P < 0.005) position. After 90 min, following admission to the PACU, only patients in the hammock position did not have severe bradycardia. In this late phase, the incidence of severe bradycardia in the Trendelenburg group was 35% (P < 0.005) and 10% in patients in the supine horizontal position. In four patients, severe bradycardia first occurred later than 90 min after admission to the PACU. The latest occurrence of severe bradycardia was recorded 320 min after admission to the PACU. We conclude that for recovery from spinal anaesthesia, the Trendelenburg position should not be used and the hammock position is preferred.