We have assessed the effect of anaesthetic technique on intubating conditions after rocuronium 0.6 mg kg-1 in four groups (n = 25 each) of unpremedicated patients in whom anaesthesia was induced with either thiopentone 5 mg kg-1 or propofol 2.5 mg kg-1 alone, or supplemented with alfentanil 20 micrograms kg-1. Fifty control patients were anaesthetized with thiopentone followed by suxamethonium. Laryngoscopy was commenced at 45 s. Overall intubating conditions after rocuronium were similar to those after suxamethonium (good and excellent > or = 96%) only when alfentanil was part of the induction regimen. However, intubation time was similar in all five groups and averaged 55 (SD 3.2) s, and the tube could be passed through open vocal cords within 70 s. After rocuronium the response of the diaphragm to intubation was more pronounced in the two groups of patients not receiving alfentanil (P < 0.0001) and in patients anaesthetized using propofol with alfentanil (P < 0.01) than in the control group. Opioids (in doses equivalent to alfentanil 20 micrograms kg-1) constitute an integral part of an induction regimen containing rocuronium 0.6 mg kg-1, regardless of whether or not thiopentone or propofol is used, in order to achieve overall intubating conditions similar to those after suxamethonium.