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We present a 42-year-old woman with unexpected coma after laparoscopic partial hepatectomy. MRI demonstrated ischaemic cerebral lesions. Further investigation revealed a patent foramen ovale. Cryptogenic stroke arising from a paradoxical carbon dioxide embolism was diagnosed. After 5 days of intensive care, she made a near complete recovery. Perioperative stroke, paradoxical emboli during surgery, patent foramen ovale, carbon dioxide cerebral embolism and therapeutic strategies are discussed.