BACKGROUND Adenosine (Ado) is known, from studies in both animals and humans, to produce antinociception when administered systemically or intrathecally (IT). The current aim was to evaluate, in a placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind study, whether IT adenosine given before surgery could reduce anaesthetic requirement and the need of opioids during 48 h after visceral surgery. METHOD Forty women (37-66 years, ASA I and II) scheduled for elective hysterectomy were included. Before inducing the standardised O2/N2O/isoflurane/fentanyl anaesthesia, the patients received an IT injection of either adenosine (500 microg in 1 ml volume) or placebo 1 ml (saline). Intraoperative anaesthetic drug doses and haemodynamics were recorded. Postoperative pain was assessed by visual analogue scale. For postoperative analgesia, cetobemidone was provided via intravenous patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). RESULTS During surgery, there were no differences between groups in anaesthetic requirement or haemodynamic parameters. Postoperative cetobemidone requirements were similar in both groups (median 48 mg for adenosine/50 mg for saline) during the first 48 postoperative hours. CONCLUSION IT adenosine did not influence the requirement of anaesthetic drug or postoperative analgesics after hysterectomy.