Last revised by Dr Patrick J Rock on 13 May 2021

A capnothorax, sometimes referred to as a carbon dioxide (CO2) pneumothorax, has been reported as a potential complication with laparoscopic surgeries.

It has been reported with almost all laparoscopic surgeries and is more likely to occur with high CO2 pressures and prolonged surgery (>200 minutes) 1

See the main article on pneumothorax

It occurs intra-operatively when the parietal pleura is breached and CO2 used in laparoscopic abdominal surgery enters the pleural space.

There are probably many different causes 2,3:

  • iatrogenic
  • congenital diaphragmatic weakness or defect
  • CO2 diffusion

See the main article on pneumothorax

CO2 can accumulate in the pleural space resulting in a "tension capnothorax" (see: tension pneumothorax), which is life-threatening and requires immediate decompression. 

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1
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