Twenty-four female patients undergoing sterilization through a minor lower laparotomy received, in a double-blind, randomized study, either lidocaine spray 200 mg or placebo in the surgical wound. Postoperative pain intensity was evaluated on a verbal and a visual analogue scale and wound tenderness with an algometer. During mobilisation from the supine to the sitting position, VAS-score was lower (P less than 0.05) in the lidocaine group 2 h postoperatively, but not 4, 6 and 8 h postoperatively (P greater than 0.05). No significant differences were found in VAS-scores at rest or during cough, or in verbal scale ratings during rest, cough or mobilisation, and postoperative consumption of morphine was similar in the two groups. Pressure pain thresholds were higher (P less than 0.05) 2 h postoperatively in the lidocaine group, but not 4, 6 and 8 h postoperatively. In conclusion, topically applied lidocaine aerosol in the surgical wound leads to very short and clinically insignificant relief of postoperative pain.