A phase III, open label randomized study was conducted in 50 patients comparing halothane and sevoflurane for paediatric day case surgery. A graded inhalational induction resulted in only slightly more rapid induction with sevoflurane (3.34 +/- 0.92 versus 3.85 +/- 1.02 minutes; P > 0.05). In children receiving sevoflurane, systolic blood pressure decreased to a lesser extent during induction (143 +/- 19.2 versus 26.9 +/- 10.9 percent decrease from resting values; P < 0.01) and heart rate was maintained. Respiratory events (coughing, breath-holding, bronchospasm, laryngospasm) were more common during induction with halothane, and excitement more common in children receiving sevoflurane. Emergence times were significantly more rapid in children who had received sevoflurane (21.4 +/- 10.9 versus 33.1 +/- 13.7 minutes; P < 0.01). Objective pain/discomfort scores were higher in patients receiving sevoflurane at 10, 20, 30 and 40 minutes after arrival in the recovery room, and the incidence of excitement during emergence was higher in this group. It is concluded that sevoflurane is well tolerated for inhalational induction and has an improved cardiovascular profile compared to halothane. Emergence was significantly more rapid following sevoflurane.