Postoperative sore throat has a negative impact on patient satisfaction and recovery. Benzydamine hydrochloride is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug available for topical use. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the efficacy and safety of topical application of benzydamine to prevent postoperative sore throat in adults undergoing elective surgery under general anaesthesia. We searched PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials to identify relevant randomised controlled trials and pooled the data using a random effects model. The primary outcomes were the incidence and severity of sore throat 24 h after surgery/extubation, and adverse events. The quality of evidence was assessed using the grading of recommendations, assessment, development and evaluation (GRADE) criteria. Thirteen randomised controlled trials involving 1842 patients were included. Compared with control patients who did not receive analgesia, benzydamine was associated with a decreased incidence of postoperative sore throat, with a risk ratio (95%CI) of 0.31 (0.20-0.47), but not with significantly reduced severity, the standardised mean difference (95%CI) being -0.27 (-0.63 to 0.08). There were no significant adverse events related to benzydamine. Benzydamine was also associated with a reduced incidence of postoperative sore throat when compared with lidocaine, with a risk ratio (95%CI) of 0.18 (0.07-0.43). We judged the evidence for the outcome 'incidence of postoperative sore throat' as high quality. © 2018 The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.