Background Ropivacaine is a new long-acting amino-amide local anesthetic. However, there are no data on its use in infants. In the current study, the authors investigated the pharmacokinetics of caudal ropivacaine in 30 infants younger than 12 months.Methods: Two groups of infants (group 1 [n = 15], aged 0-3 months; group 2 [n = 15], aged 3-12 months) were given a caudal bolus dose of 0.2% ropivacaine (2 mg/kg) and a standardized general anesthetic technique. Serial blood samples taken for up to 12 h were analyzed for total and free ropivacaine using high-performance liquid chromatography, Population pharmacokinetic modeling was performed to yield estimates of clearance, volume of distribution, and absorption rate constant. An analysis of covariates on the kinetic parameters also was made.Results: Median maximum free ropivacaine concentration was significantly higher in group 1 (99 mug/l) than in group 2 (38 mug/l) (P = 0.0002), as was the median free fraction of ropivacaine (10% vs. 5 %; P = 0.01), Pharmacokinetic variables of the total population were best described by a one-compartment model with first-order absorption. Mean clearance was 0.31 l.h(-1).kg(-1) (coefficient of variation [CV], 51%), volume of distribution was 2.12 l/kg (CV, 34%), and absorption rate constant was 1.61 h(-1) (CV, 46%), Mean absorption and elimination half-lives were 0.43 and 5.1 h, respectively. Age and percentage of free ropivacaine were significant covariates for clearance. Posterior Bayesian estimates of clearance were significantly higher (38%) in older children.Conclusion: Total and free plasma ropivacaine concentrations after caudal ropivacaine (0.2%, 2 mg/kg) in infants were within the range of concentrations previously reported in adults and older children. Age and percentage of free ropivacaine were significant covariates of clearance.