The combined use of midazolam and spinal anesthesia is common in clinical practice. Despite the known potential for each to alter ventilation, the effect of their interaction has not been examined. Nineteen healthy volunteers were studied to assess the impact of intravenous midazolam (0.05 or 0.075 mg/kg), spinal anesthesia (T3-T8; mean level, T6), and their combination on resting ventilation and ventilatory responses to progressive hyperoxic hypercapnia. Resting ventilatory pattern was altered significantly by each condition. Midazolam caused a 29% decrease in resting tidal volume and a 24% decrease in mean inspiratory flow rate, while respiratory frequency increased by 14% and minute ventilation remained unchanged. By contrast, spinal anesthesia alone caused a 32% increase in tidal volume, a 24% increase in mean inspiratory flow rate, and a 13% increase in minute ventilation accompanied by a 14% decrease in respiratory frequency. The combination of midazolam and spinal anesthesia caused a significant decrease in minute ventilation (19%), tidal volume (28%), and mean inspiratory flow rate (27%), all of which were significantly more than the predicted sum of the individual interventions. Midazolam and spinal anesthesia each produced a significant decrease in hypercapnic ventilatory response slope, whereas their combination provoked no net change in hypercapnic ventilatory response slope. Interpretation of the hypercapnic ventilatory response data was complicated by shifts in the position of the ventilatory response curve, particularly under the spinal anesthesia condition. It is concluded that intravenous midazolam depresses resting ventilation, spinal anesthesia stimulates resting ventilation, and their combination has a modest synergistic effect of depressing resting ventilation.