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The incidence of airway complications following general anaesthesia using either a tracheal tube or a laryngeal mask airway was compared in a prospective, randomized study of 79 patients undergoing elective cataract surgery using a standard anaesthetic technique. Assessment was made both at extubation (which was taken to include removal of the laryngeal mask airway) and for 25 min afterwards. There was a significantly greater incidence of coughing prior to extubation (P < 0.001), at extubation (P < 0.001) and after extubation (P < 0.001) in the tracheal group than in the laryngeal mask airway group. No other airway complications were seen in either group.