We have studied the effects of bupivacaine on human and bovine articular chondrocytes in vitro. Time-lapse confocal microscopy of human articular chondrocytes showed > 95% cellular death after exposure to 0.5% bupivacaine for 30 minutes. Human and bovine chondrocytes exposed to 0.25% bupivacaine had a time-dependent reduction in viability, with longer exposure times resulting in higher cytotoxicity. Cellular death continued even after removal of 0.25% bupivacaine. After exposure to 0.25% bupivacaine for 15 minutes, flow cytometry showed bovine chondrocyte viability to be 41% of saline control after seven days. After exposure to 0.125% bupivacaine for up to 60 minutes, the viability of both bovine and human chondrocytes was similar to that of control groups. These data show that prolonged exposure 0.5% and 0.25% bupivacaine solutions are potentially chondrotoxic.