BACKGROUND: Insertion of a ProSeal(TM) laryngeal mask airway (PLMA(TM)) by experienced users was more successful with using a catheter-guided (CG) technique than a digital technique. The purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of the CG insertion technique for a PLMA(TM) by inexperienced personnel. METHODS: Forty patients aged 18-65 yr and who were undergoing general anesthesia were randomly allocated to the index finger (IF) or CG insertion techniques for PLMA(TM) insertion. The IF technique was performed with the routine insertion technique. The CG technique was performed using a catheter inserted PLMA(TM), which was primed into the drain tube of the PLMA(TM) with using a soft flexible catheter. Successful insertion was primarily judged by the clinical function of the airway. The number of insertion attempts and the insertion time were recorded. Postoperative airway morbidity (sore throat, dysphonia, dysphagia) was assessed at 24 hr postoperatively. RESULTS: The success rate was similar between the groups (IF, 18/20; CG, 15/20). The successful insertion time (the time to provide an effective airway) was similar between the groups but the insertion time at the first attempt was shorter for the IF technique (IF, 21.6 +/- 5.3 s; CG, 27.4 +/- 10.3 s). There were no differences between the groups for the postoperative airway morbidity. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that the CG insertion technique is not a useful alternative technique for inexperienced personnel.