Fifty patients scheduled for cataract surgery under peribulbar block were randomised to receive either plain (pH 5.4) or pH-adjusted (pH 6.8 range 6.7-6.9) 0.75% bupivacaine. Hyaluronidase was added to both solutions prior to peribulbar block. The time of onset of akinesia of the globe and the need for supplementary injections were recorded by an independent observer. Patients who returned for surgery to the second eye received the alternative local anaesthetic solution for the second peribulbar block. The relative efficacy of the different anaesthetic solutions was compared in patients who underwent unilateral surgery (Group A, n = 50). In 12 patients (Group B) who underwent bilateral surgery, direct comparisons between eyes in the same patient were possible. In both groups of patients, eyes receiving peribulbar block with the pH-adjusted solution showed a shorter time to partial akinesia of the globe (P less than 0.05). However, there was no difference between the solutions in the time to complete akinesia of the globe, but the number of supplementary injections required for an effective block with the pH-adjusted solution was increased. Onset time to akinesia of the lateral and superior rectus muscles was shortened in patients receiving the pH-adjusted solution but there were minimal effects on the medial and inferior recti.