The effects of simultaneous occlusion of the thoracic aorta and inferior vena cava on oxygen consumption (VO2) have not yet been reported in humans. Ten patients (all ASA II) needed such simultaneous occlusion to allow hypoxic abdominal perfusion in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. With the development of the PhysioFlex® anaesthesia machine for closed-circuit anaesthesia, intra-operative realtime curves of VO2 became available. Thus, we can continuously measure FIO2, VE, VO2 and air consumption. By placing a pulmonary artery catheter, we could also intermittently calculate DO2 during the several phases of the perfusion procedure. Immediately after the simultaneous aortocaval occlusion started, VO2 decreased by 35% (68 ml min-1 m-2) and ̇DO2 decreased below the critical value of 330 ml min-1 m-2. At reperfusion, repayment of the oxygen debt was by a two-stage pattern: a fast repayment stage with an increase of about 65% was followed by a slow repayment stage of 14% increase (values compared to steady state). Oxygen consumption in women was found to be significantly lower than in men (P = 0.02), with significant variation between the sexes during different stages of the procedure. The oxygen debt was not completely repaid by the end of the procedure. We conclude that the significant variation found in oxygen consumption will have consequences while performing low-flow anaesthesia, that additional oxygen supply during the recovery period because of the initially incomplete repayment of oxygen debt may be useful and that studies on oxygen consumption must present gender-specific data because of the gender-dependent variation found in oxygen consumption.