I.v. anaesthetic agents, including propofol, have not been shown to inhibit hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV). This may encourage the use of propofol in thoracic surgery where one lung ventilation (OLV) is required. We have compared the effects of maintaining anaesthesia with either isoflurane or propofol infusion on right ventricular function and shunt fraction. We studied 10 patients who received isoflurane and 12 who received propofol. When OLV commenced there was a greater reduction in both mean cardiac index (3.2 (SEM 0.2) to 2.4 (0.1) litre min-1 m-2 for propofol, and 3.4 (0.2) to 3.3 (0.4) litre min-1 m-2 for isoflurane) and right ventricular ejection fraction (0.45 (0.03) to 0.37 (0.02) for propofol, and 0.48 (0.02) to 0.42 (0.02) for isoflurane) in patients who received propofol. Furthermore, these reductions were sustained for longer in the propofol group. However, propofol was not associated with a significant increase in shunt fraction during OLV, which increased threefold in patients who received isoflurane.