We analysed the nitrous oxide composition of the intraocular gas bubble following vitrectomy and fluid-air exchange in 12 patients. Samples were taken under standardised conditions at 20 minutes after completion of the fluid-air exchange. Analysis was conducted by a Medishield MS2 mass spectrometer. The percentage composition of nitrous oxide in the samples varied between 4 and 21% (mean 9%). This influx of nitrous oxide was associated with an increase of intraocular pressure. Pressure rises of greater than 20 mm Hg were not seen owing to venting of gas through the sclerostomies. An inverse relationship was noted between the extent of retinal detachment preoperatively and the amount of nitrous oxide entering the eye. A possible explanation for this relationship is proposed. The importance of nitrous oxide movement is stressed.
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