Propofol-induced metabolic acidosis is well recognised in the paediatric literature, but the existence of such a syndrome in adults remains contentious. In most reported cases, metabolic acidosis complicated prolonged administration of propofol in critically ill patients. We present a case of severe non-fatal reversible metabolic acidosis, without ventilatory depression or hypoxia, related to short-term propofol infusion in an adult during and after coronary artery bypass grafting. We suggest that lactic acidosis occurred in a genetically susceptible patient with an abnormality of mitochondrial function. This report discusses an unusual adverse effect of propofol anaesthesia and sedation and highlights the need for further investigation to define propofol toxicity.