To assess the analgesic efficacy of patient-controlled bupivacaine wound instillation, 50 patients undergoing major intraabdominal surgery were enrolled into this prospective, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study. In all cases, a standard general anesthetic was administered. On completion of surgery, two multihole 20-gauge epidural catheters were tunneled through the proximal and distal apices of the surgical wound and placed above the fascia such that the tips were at the margin of the first and second thirds of the surgical wound, respectively. Postoperatively, a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) device was connected to the instillation system. Either bupivacaine 0.25% (Bupivacaine Group) or an equal volume of sterile water (Control Group) was administered. The PCA device was programmed to deliver 9.0 mL with a 60-min lockout interval and no basal infusion. During the first six postoperative hours, a coinvestigator administered "rescue" morphine (2 mg IV). Thereafter, meperidine 1 mg/kg IM was administered on patient request for additional analgesia. Instillation attempts and actual number of injections were similar between the groups. The mean number of pump infusions and the mean "rescue" opioid requirements during the 24-h study period were similar between the groups. The total "rescue" morphine administered during the first six postoperative hours was 16 ± 17 mg vs 18 ± 14 mg for the Bupivacaine and Control Groups, respectively. The total meperidine administered during this period was 1.6 ± 1.4 mg/kg and 2 ± 1.2 mg/kg for the Bupivacaine and Control Groups, respectively. Preoperatively, hourly for the first six postoperative hours, and on removal of the instillation catheter, patient-generated visual analog scales for pain were similar at rest, on coughing, and after leg raise. In conclusion, bupivacaine wound instillation via an electronic PCA device and a double-catheter system does not decrease postoperative opioid requirements after surgery performed through a midline incision.