Tramadol may cause awareness and EEG activation during anaesthesia. We compared tramadol with morphine, administered during wound-closure, surmising that tramadol may cause earlier awakening, more rapid recovery, less respiratory depression and equivalent pain relief. Forty patients received nitrous oxide-enflurane for abdominal surgery. At wound closure, patients received tramadol 3 mg kg-1 or morphine 0.2 mg kg-1 and end-tidal enflurane concentrations were maintained at 0.5 kPa until skin closure, whereupon anaesthesia was discontinued. Times to spontaneous respiration, awakening and orientation were similar in the two groups, as were blood-gas tensions, ventilatory frequency, pain scores and incidence of nausea. Half of each group required supplementary analgesia during their 90-min stay in the recovery room. P-deletion counts improved more rapidly in the tramadol group. This study confirms previous reports that tramadol did not antagonize the hypnotic effects of volatile anaesthetics. Tramadol, administered during operation, was as effective as morphine in providing postoperative analgesia while permitting more rapid psychomotor recovery.