We have observed the effect of intubation and incision, as measured by the auditory evoked response (AER) and haemodynamic variables, in 12 patients undergoing hernia repair or varicose vein surgery who received remifentanil as part of either an inhaled anaesthetic technique using isoflurane or as part of a total i.v. technique using propofol. Anaesthesia was induced with remifentanil 1 microgram kg-1 and propofol, neuromuscular block was achieved with atracurium 0.6 mg kg-1 before intubation, and anaesthesia was maintained with a continuous infusion of remifentanil in combination with either a continuous infusion of propofol or inhaled isoflurane. The AER and haemodynamic variables were measured before and after intubation and incision. The effects of intubation and incision on the AER and haemodynamic variables were not significantly different between the remifentanil-propofol and remifentanil-isoflurane groups. However, the study had a low power for this comparison. When the data for the two anaesthetic combinations were pooled, the only significant effects were increases in diastolic arterial pressure and heart rate immediately after intubation; these were not seen 5 min after intubation. There were no cardiovascular responses to incision. There were no significant changes in the AER after intubation or incision.