Pressure-controlled ventilation (PCV) is less frequently employed in general anesthesia. With its high and decelerating inspiratory flow, PCV has faster tidal volume delivery and different gas distribution. The same tidal volume setting, delivered by PCV versus volume-controlled ventilation (VCV), will result in a lower peak airway pressure and reduced risk of barotrauma. We hypothesized that PCV instead of VCV during laparoscopic surgery could achieve lower airway pressures and reduce the systemic stress response. Forty ASA I-II patients were randomly selected to receive either the PCV (Group PC, n = 20) or VCV (Group VC, n = 20) during laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Blood sampling was made for baseline arterial blood gases (ABG), cortisol, insulin, and glucose levels. General anesthesia with sevoflurane and fentanyl was employed to all patients. After anesthesia induction and endotracheal intubation, patients in Group PC were given pressure support to form 8 mL/kg tidal volume and patients in Group VC was maintained at 8 mL/kg tidal volume calculated using predicted body weight. All patients were maintained with 5 cmH(2)O positive-end expiratory pressure (PEEP). Respiratory parameters were recorded before and 30 min after pneumoperitonium. Assessment of ABG and sampling for cortisol, insulin and glucose levels were repeated 30 min after pneumoperitonium and 60 min after extubation. The P-peak levels observed before (18.9 +/- 3.8 versus 15 +/- 2.2 cmH(2)O) and during (23.3 +/- 3.8 versus 20.1 +/- 2.9 cmH(2)O) pneumoperitoneum in Group VC were significantly higher. Postoperative partial arterial oxygen pressure (PaO2) values are higher (98 +/- 12 versus 86 +/- 11 mmHg) in Group PC. Arterial carbon dioxide pressure (PaCO2) values (41.8 +/- 5.4 versus 36.7 +/- 3.5 mmHg) during pneumoperitonium and post-operative mean cortisol and insulin levels were higher in Group VC. When compared to VCV mode, PCV mode may improve compliance during pneumoperitoneum, improve oxygenation and reduce stress response postoperatively and may be more appropriate in patients having laparoscopic surgery.