The aim of this study was to determine whether the addition of a background infusion (BI) to patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) would lead to significantly improved pain control or poorer oxyhaemoglobin saturation (SpO2) after gynaecological surgery. Sixty-two patients were studied for 24 hours postoperatively; pain scores and morphine dose were recorded hourly, SpO2 was recorded every 10 seconds. Administration of the BI resulted in a significant increase in total morphine dose received although there was no difference in the severity of postoperative desaturation between the therapies. Despite the increased morphine dose pain scores also were similar in the two groups. Addition of a BI at 1 mg/hr did not confer any advantage over PCA alone and is not recommended when PCA is used in this patient group.