Study Objective: The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that the amount of nitrogen that accumulates within the closed breathing system would be greater during open abdominal surgery than during superficial surgery with small wounds. Design: Prospective, comparative study. Setting: Operating rooms of a university hospital. Patients: Fourteen American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status I and II adult patients scheduled for abdominal surgery (n = 7) or tympanoplasty (n = 7). Interventions: After induction of anesthesia and endotracheal intubation, the patients were denitrogenated for 30 minutes using 100% oxygen at a fresh gas flow of 10 L/min. The breathing system was then closed and patients were anesthetized using 60% xenon in oxygen, supplemented with epidural anesthesia in the abdominal surgery group and sevoflurane in the tympanoplasty group. Measurements: Nitrogen concentration in the breathing system was determined by gas chromatography immediately before and 2 hours after the breathing system was closed. Main Results: The median (range) increase in nitrogen concentration during the 2-hour period of closed circuit anesthesia was greater in the abdominal surgery patients than in the tympanoplasty patients (6.5% [4.0%-10.2%] vs 2.5% [1.4%-8.4%], P = 0.035, Mann-Whitney U test). Conclusions: The amount of nitrogen accumulation during closed circuit anesthesia is greater during open abdominal surgery than in superficial surgery such as tympanoplasty. We postulate that during open abdominal surgery, nitrogen in the ambient air enters the body across the peritoneum and then diffuses into the alveoli to be exhaled. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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