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Endosc Surg Allied Technol. 1995 Aug;3(4):183-6.

Helium insufflation in laparoscopic surgery.

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Harbor UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, USA.


Carbon dioxide is the most commonly used gas for abdominal insufflation in laparoscopy today. Due to the solubility of carbon dioxide large volumes are absorbed into the circulation causing a high PCO2 and a low pH (respiratory acidosis). Carbon dioxide is also stored in several sites in the body and is released at the conclusion of the procedure prolonging the respiratory acidosis when the patient is least able to cope with this additional burden. Cardiac effects of CO2 consist of a lowering of the arrhythmia threshold, increased blood pressure, pulse and cardiac output. At a sustained high level this can lead to cardiac depression and death. These effects are particularly prone to occur in cardiac and respiratory cripples. Other gases that have been used include air, oxygen, nitrous oxide and nitrogen. Their use has been discontinued because of the danger of embolism. Air, oxygen and nitrous oxide are also not safe to use in the presence of electrosurgical instruments thereby limiting their usefulness even further. Helium has been proposed as a very promising alternative to CO2. In the laboratory and in a clinical trial, helium has not produced the respiratory acidosis associated with CO2 insufflation. This is further evidence that the acidosis is not primarily due to elevation of the diaphragm and consequent increased dead space, but to the large amount of CO2 that is absorbed directly from the peritoneal cavity. Helium would seem to be the gas of choice at this time as it comes close to fitting the criteria for an ideal insufflating gas. Helium is clear and colorless, allowing unimpeded vision to the operator. It is non toxic, not flammable or explosive and can be safely used with electrocautery and laser. Helium is easy to handle and not very soluble which decreases the amount absorbed from the peritoneal cavity and consequently the amount used. That which is absorbed is quickly cleared by the lungs. Helium is metabolically inactive (in contrast to CO2) and does not interfere with normal metabolic processes. In view of this promising initial work, further studies are indicated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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