Plasma concentrations and the degree of neuromuscular blockade after a 2-min infusion of 0.1 mg/kg of vecuronium bromide or pancuronium bromide (equipotent doses) were studied in 12 gynecologic patients. The plasma concentrations of both drugs declined in a triphasic manner. The difference between the intercepts and rate constants of the two drugs was not significant. Vecuronium was removed faster from the plasma than pancuronium; this was reflected in a significantly larger plasma clearance rate for vecuronium (4 ml X min-1 X kg-1 vs 1.1 ml X min-1 X kg-1 for pancuronium). The effective plasma concentrations at 50% recovery of the twitch height were 0.11 +/- 0.02 (vecuronium) and 0.2 +/- 0.03 microgram/ml (pancuronium). The disposition kinetics were adequately described by a three-compartment model. An effect compartment was added to the model to correlate the neuromuscular effects and plasma concentrations of both drugs. The ratio between concentrations of vecuronium and pancuronium in the effect compartment at 50% twitch height was 0.83. In spite of its greater potency, vecuronium has a shorter duration of action than pancuronium.