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Acta Cirúrgica Brasileira

On-line version ISSN 1678-2674

Acta Cir. Bras. vol.28 no.7 São Paulo July 2013 



Effects of pneumoperitoneum with carbon dioxide and helium on renal function and morphology in rats1



Pedro Felipe Silva de FreitasI; Leonardo Castro DurãesII; Felipe Augusto Neves Oliveira de CarvalhoIII; Sérgio Andurte Carvalho DuarteIII; Fabiana Pirani CarneiroIV; João Batista de SousaV

IGraduate student, School of Medicine, UnB, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Acquisition and interpretation of data, technical procedures, statistical analysis, manuscript writing
IIFellow Master degree, Postgraduate Program in Medical Sciences, School of Medicine, UnB, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Technical procedures, statistical analysis, interpretation of data, critical revision
IIIGraduate student, School of Medicine, UnB, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Acquisition and interpretation of data, technical procedures, critical revision
IVPhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, School of Medicine, UnB, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Macroscopic and histopathological examinations, interpretation of data, critical revision
VPhD, Associate Professor of Surgery, School of Medicine, UnB, Brasilia-DF, Brazil. Intellectual, scientific content and design of the study; technical procedures; interpretation of data; manuscript writing; critical revision





PURPOSE: To evaluate the effects of pneumoperitoneum with carbon dioxide and helium on renal function and morphology in a rat model.
METHODS: Twenty four rats were randomized into three groups (n=8): gasless insufflation ('open', Pressure=0 mmHg), carbon dioxide pneumoperitoneum at 12 mmHg, and helium pneumoperitoneum at 12 mmHg; all lasting 90 minutes.. A cystostomy was performed and the bladder was emptied. At the end of the experiment, the urine produced, a blood sample and the left kidney of each animal were collected. The following variables were obtained: serum sodium, potassium, urea and creatinine, urine volume and creatinine. The creatinine clearance was estimated for each animal. The kidneys were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE) and evaluated by a pathologist blinded to the groups.
RESULTS: The CO2 and Helium groups did not differ in the variables evaluated. Both developed oliguria (p<0.001 vs. gasless). The CO2 group presented hyperkalemia compared to gasless (p=0.05), which did not attain significance in the helium group. Histopathological analysis revealed mild hydropic degeneration and congestion in the three groups, with no significant difference among them.
CONCLUSIONS: The type of gas resulted in no difference in the variables of renal function and morphology assessed. The increase in serum potassium was only observed with CO2 insufflation suggests a combined effect of elevated intra-abdominal pressure and metabolic effects of pneumoperitoneum.

Key words: Surgery. Laparoscopy. Pneumoperitoneum, Artificial. Carbon Dioxide. Helium. Kidney. Rats.




Pneumoperitoneum (PP) is essential for adequate exposure in laparoscopic surgery1. Laparoscopic access, in turn, is associated with decreased pain, lower morbidity, superior cosmesis, shorter postoperative stay and return to preoperative activities as compared with open techniques2-5. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the gas employed most widely for insufflation, given that it is noncombustible, relatively inexpensive and highly soluble in blood, minimizing the risk of embolism2-3,6. However, PP increases intra-abdominal pressure, which has been shown to produce oliguria and renal dysfunction in both animal and clinical studies1-2,4-12. In healthy young patients, these changes tend to be mild and reversible due to the various physiologic mechanisms for CO2 buffering and elimination2,12. Therefore, no major clinical consequences are observed. In patients with underlying renal impairment, however, these renal effects may be of clinical significance, thus increasing the morbidity of the procedure2-3,7,12. This situation is becoming common due to widespread use of laparoscopic techniques, which were formerly restricted to "optimal" candidates but are currently used in an increasing number of patients with comorbidities1-2,8-9. These adverse effects are also relevant in laparoscopic nephrectomies for live donor transplantation, due to concerns regarding possible PP-related graft damage1,4-5,13-14. Despite extensive research in the last two decades, the exact mechanisms responsible for the renal effects of PP have not been entirely elucidated5,12. Vascular and parenchymal compression certainly plays a role, though hormonal factors1-2,5-7,10-11 and, more recently, oxidative stress4,9,13 have been suggested as well. These last two factors could result at least partially from hypercarbia and acidosis, both caused by peritoneal absorption of CO22,4-6,8,10,14. McDougall et al.11 demonstrated pressure-dependent CO2 absorption through the peritoneal surface, which was not seen with argon insufflation. Other observations suggesting a pharmacological effect of CO2, inducing sympathetic and hormonal activation, have been reported. They include persistence of renal changes for some hours after desufflation1-2,5,8-11, increased renin activity in dogs following CO2 (but not helium) insufflation10 and higher vasopressin levels7,10, as well as complete oliguria, reversed with N-acetylcysteine9 or a vasopressin receptor antagonist7. Histopathological changes have also been assessed, although they are reported only occasionally in the literature2,4,11,13-16.

The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the effects of pneumoperitoneum with carbon dioxide and helium on renal function and morphology in a rat model.



All study procedures and protocols were reviewed and approved by the Animal Research Ethics Committee of the University of Brasilia, School of Medicine (CEUA, FM/UnB). Twenty-four male Wistar rats (Labocien, Centro Universitario de Brasilia, UniCEUB, Brasilia) weighing 275-370g and 90-120 days old were used in the study. Before the experiments, they were kept on a 12/12-h light/dark cycle and had access to water and chow ad libitum.

Anesthesia was induced and maintained with an IM injection of ketamine chloride and xylazine chloride at doses of 75 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg body weight respectively. A cystostomy was performed by percutaneous insertion of a 22-gauge vascular catheter 1 cm cephalad to the penis. The bladder was emptied and the urethra occluded at the distal penis to prevent urine leakage. The animals were randomized into three groups (n=8): gasless insufflation ('open', p=0 mmHg), carbon dioxide pneumoperitoneum at 12 mmHg, and helium pneumoperitoneum at 12 mmHg.

In all groups, a Veress needle was inserted percutaneously at the umbilicus (5 cm cephalad to the penis, approximately). In the CO2 and helium groups, insufflation was performed with an automatic device (Surgiflator 16 L/min, World of Medicine, Germany) at a low flow rate (0.1 L/min). The gases were at room temperature. In the open group, no gas was injected. The selected intervention for each group was maintained for 90 minutes.

At the end of 90 minutes, the urine produced was collected, blood samples obtained through intracardiac puncture, and the left kidney of each animal removed for histopathological analysis. Finally, the rats were killed with an overdose of thiopental.

Blood samples were centrifuged. Both the serum obtained and the urine collected were frozen at -20ºC and later tested in an automatic analyzer (ARCHITECT ci8200, Abbott Laboratories, United States). The following measurements were obtained: serum creatinine, urea, sodium, and potassium, and urinary volume, urea, and creatinine. Furthermore, creatinine clearance was estimated for the period and corrected for the weight of each animal.

The kidneys were immediately fixed in 10% buffered formalin and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. A pathologist blinded to group allocation evaluated all specimens under light microscopy. The following parameters were evaluated: hydropic degeneration, congestion, cytoplasmic vacuoles, membrane rupture and necrosis.

Data were expressed as means and standard deviations. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 20.0. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed for among-group comparison of each variable. Tukey's post-hoc test was used as appropriate for comparison of pairs of groups (CO2 vs. helium and CO2 vs. open). p values ≤ 0.05 were considered significant.



No animal died during the 90 minutes of the experiment. There was no difference in body weight or serum sodium, urea and creatinine among groups (Table 1).



Urinary output did not differ between the CO2 and helium groups. In both, it was significantly lower than in the gasless insufflation group (Figure 1).



Similarly, no difference was observed between the CO2 and helium groups with respect to urine creatinine concentration, whereas in both, it was significantly higher than in the gasless group (Figure 2).



When creatinine clearance was estimated and corrected for the weight of each animal, no significant differences were found among the three groups (Figure3).



Serum potassium was slightly increased in the helium group compared to the gasless insufflation group, though the difference was only significant in the CO2 group (Figure 4).



Finally, histopathological analysis revealed mild hydropic degeneration and vascular congestion in all groups, with no significant difference among them. No necrosis was observed (Table 2).




Both groups subjected to PP exhibited oliguria, an effect repeatedly reported in previous studies4-11,16. No difference was observed regardless of whether CO2 or helium was used for insufflation. Hence, at least under the conditions of this experiment, carbon dioxide did not have any additional oliguric effects as compared with an inert gas (helium). This finding is consistent with the few previous studies which employed gases other than CO2 (argon, air, helium)5,10-11. Differences between the gases were observed only after release of PP, when animals in the helium group were found to have significantly faster recovery of renal function than those assigned to the CO2 group10. Not only did urinary output decrease, but urine also became more concentrated, as may be inferred from the rise in urine creatinine following PP. Once again, no difference was found between CO2 and helium, indicating that both gases had similar effects on urine concentration. Similar levels of serum sodium, urea and creatinine between PP and control groups have also been reported elsewhere4,8,16. Serum potassium increased in the helium and CO2 groups, although statistical significance was only reached in the latter. This might imply that hyperkalemia resulted from the combined effects of elevated intra-abdominal pressure and the metabolic effects of carbon dioxide.

A 12 mmHg pneumoperitoneum was chosen to warrant some degree of renal impairment, based on the experiments performed in rats by Kirsch et al.8. Thus any difference between CO2 and Helium would become evident. Surprisingly, however, creatinine clearance did not differ among the three groups. This suggests that, in this experiment, oliguria following PP resulted from changes in overall water–electrolyte balance rather than from decreased renal function7. Whereas many studies report renal dysfunction7,1,9, it is certainly not a consensus finding in the literature, whereas oliguria is. Demyttenaere et al.12 reviewed seven studies which used rodent models of PP, and in three, no change in renal function was found after PP. These inconsistencies are probably due to the difficulty of measuring renal function in the acute setting2,12, and this is also a limitation of the present study. Creatinine clearance is not as precise in the short term as it is chronically12, though it has been employed in some studies in this field10,11. Nevertheless, no ideal marker for acute renal function assessment is currently available, and the various methods that are available (creatinine and inulin clearance, radioisotopes, etc.) are mere approximations2,12. Another limitation of the experiment was the relatively short duration of PP (90 minutes). Some studies employed longer periods (as long as 24h16), and renal impairment increased proportionally. Therefore, a possible effect of CO2 on renal function might need more time to become evident. The choice of a 90-minute PP period was based on the duration of most laparoscopic procedures.

Finally, observation of histopathological changes in kidney tissue after PP varies in the literature2. Many methods, such as H&E staining, von Kossa staining, apoptosis markers and immunohistochemistry have been used. The timing of kidney tissue examination also differs across different studies, ranging from immediately after PP13,16 to some hours11, days15 and even a year after PP14. Only one study has reported transient changes directly related to the insufflation pressure applied16, whereas all other investigations have failed to observe any significant histopathological changes11,13-16.



Under the conditions of this experiment, the type of gas used for induction of pneumoperitoneum resulted in no difference in the variables of renal function and morphology assessed. A combined effect of increased intra-abdominal pressure and metabolic effects of carbon dioxide is suggested by the serum potassium increase which was observed both in the CO2 and in the helium groups, but only attained significance in the former compared with gasless insufflation. For the remaining variables, the effects of increased intra-abdominal pressure probably predominate over the metabolic effects of carbon dioxide.



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2. Grabowsky JE, Talamini MA. Physiological effects of pneumoperitoneum. J Gastrointest Surg. 2009;13(5):1009-16.         [ Links ]

3. Rademaker BMP, Bannenberf JJ, Kalkman CJ, Meyer DW. Effects of pneumoperitoneum with helium on hemodynamics and oxygen transport: a comparison with carbon dioxide. J Laparoendosc Surg. 1995;5(1):15-20.         [ Links ]

4. Khoury W, Jakowlev K, Fein A, Orenstein H, Nakache R, Weinbroum AA. Renal apoptosis following carbon dioxide pneumoperitoneum in a rat model. J Urol. 2008;180:1554-8.         [ Links ]

5. Wiesenthal JD, Fazio LM, Perks AE, Blew BDM, Mazer D, Hare G, Honey RJDA, Pace KT. Effect of pneumoperitoneum on renal tissue oxygenation and blood flow in a rat model. Urology. 2011;77(6):1508.e9-15.         [ Links ]

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8. Kirsch AJ, Hensle TW, Chang DT, Kayton ML, Olsson CA, Sawczuk IS. Renal effects of CO2 insufflation: oliguria and acute renal dysfunction in a rat pneumoperitoneum model. Urology. 1994;43(4):453-9.         [ Links ]

9. Seguro AC, Poli de Figueiredo LF, Shimizu MH. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) protects against acute kidney injury (AKI) following prolonged pneumoperitoneum in the rat. J Surg Res. 2012;175(2):312-5.         [ Links ]

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11. McDougall EM, Monk TG, Wolf Jr JS, Hicks M, Clayman RV, Gardner S, Humphrey PA, Sharp T, Martin K. The effect of prolonged pneumoperitoneum on renal function in an animal model. J Am Coll Surg. 1996;182(4):317-28.         [ Links ]

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13. Akbulut G, Polat C, Aktepe F, Yilmaz S, Kahraman A, Serteser M, Gökçe C, Görkçe O. The oxidative effect of prolonged CO2 Pneumoperitoneum on renal tissue of rats. Surg Endosc. 2004;18(9):1384-8.         [ Links ]

14. Hazebroek EJ, de Bruin RWF, Bouvy ND, Marquet RL, Bonthuis F, Bajema IM, Hayes DP, Ijzermans JNM, Bonjer HJ. Long-term impact of pneumoperitoneum used for laparoscopic donor nephrectomy on renal function and histomorphology in donor and recipient rats. Ann Surg. 2003;237(3):351-7.         [ Links ]

15. Farias IEC, Morais PHA, Durães LC, Carneiro FP, Oliveira, PG, Sousa JB. Effects of carbon dioxide pneumoperitoneum on hepatic and renal morphology of rats after segmental colectomy and colonic anastomosis. Acta Cir Bras. 2011;26(4):279-84.         [ Links ]

16. Schachtrupp A, Toens Ch, Hoer J, Klosterhalfen B, Lawong AG, Schumpelick V. A 24-h pneumoperitoneum leads to multiple organ impairment in a porcine model. J Surg Res. 2002;106(1):37-45.         [ Links ]



João Batista de Sousa

Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro-UnB
Faculdade de Medicina
Laboratório de Cirurgia Experimental
70910-900 Brasília – DF Brasil
Tel.: (55 61)9984-2845

Received: March 25, 2013
Review: May 27, 2013
Accepted: June 24, 2013
Conflict of interest: none
Financial source: National Council of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq)



1 Research performed at Experimental Surgery Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of Brasilia (UnB), Brazil.

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