We studied 13 children subjected to elective tonsillectomy, 6 of whom (study patients) received supplemental intravenous isotonic saline during and after operation, and 7 of whom (controls) did not. Clinical and biochemical evidence of hypovolaemia was present in the control but not in the study patients. Plasma antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and urine osmolality were higher in controls (p less than 0.005 and p less than 0.05 respectively). Plasma sodium concentration and osmolality were similar in the two groups. We conclude that hypovolaemia is the principal stimulus to ADH release following surgery and that, in addition to replacement of observed losses of blood and other fluids by fluids of appropriate composition, hypovolaemia should be prevented by the administration of maintenance quantities of isotonic fluid, rather than exacerbated by fluid restriction, in patients in whom oral fluid intake is interrupted for more than a brief period. Hypotonic and sodium free fluids should be avoided because of the risk of hyponatraemia.