A state exists after the induction of anaesthesia in which patients may be aware of their surroundings yet unable to communicate. This problem of awareness and recall during general anaesthesia is a recent one in the relatively short history of anaesthesia. Prior to the introduction of muscle relaxants in 1942 by Griffith and Johnson, it was felt that "light anaesthesia" would be signified by violent movements. Today, the concepts of anaesthetic depth, awareness, and recall have become more complicated with the addition of numerous newer, shorter-acting, intravenous anaesthetic agents with varying effects on the conscious state. Several methods have been described to detect awareness. None has yet been found to be totally reliable and numerous reports of awareness can be found in the literature. Light inhalation and total intravenous anaesthesia have been blamed for the majority of these case reports. However, awareness during total intravenous anaesthesia is avoidable with the proper use of a combination of a hypnotic and an analgesic such as midazolam and alfentanil for general anaesthesia.