A method is described for the measurement of lignocaine in small samples of fetal and placental tissue. Tissue samples (ca 100 mg) are digested using a preteolytic enzyme. Lignocaine and an internal standard are extracted into methyl tert-butyl ether and analysed by high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection (+1.0 V vs Ag/AgCl). The limit of accurate measurement is better than 0.1 mg/kg wet weight for a 100 mg sample. This method has been used to assess fetal exposure to the drug when used as a local anaesthetic during transabdominal placental biopsy (chorionic villus sampling). The range of lignocaine concentrations found in the tissue samples was large (from less than 0.04 mg/kg wet weight to 15.4 mg/kg wet weight) although most samples contained less than 1.0 mg lignocaine/kg wet weight.