On the morning of operation 30 patients awaiting minor gynaecological surgery completed a Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Gastric emptying was then measured using paracetamol absorption. Anxiety State scores, which reflected situational anxiety, were unrelated to Anxiety Trait scores, which assessed anxiety proneness. Paracetamol absorption was reduced and delayed in patients with low anxiety trait who developed high anxiety state before surgery, compared with patients whose anxiety state scores were lower than, or similar to, their anxiety trait scores. Therefore, it was concluded that gastric stasis occurred in patients with a low predisposition to anxiety who became apprehensive whilst awaiting surgery.