Previous studies have shown that patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) provides effective pain control in the postoperative patient. To determine the impact of PCA technology on the overall hospital course, we designed a randomized controlled study comparing patients receiving analgesia using PCA infusion (Abbott Lifecare®, Abbott Laboratories; Chicago, IL) with patients receiving analgesia by traditional intramuscular or intravenous methods. All patients had undergone elective cholecystectomy. Sixty-nine patients completed the study, 35 received traditional postoperative analgesia, and 34 received analgesia using the PCA infuser. Comparison of both groups demonstrated no significant difference in postoperative bowel activity with both groups receiving liquids on the first postoperative day. There was no significant difference between the two groups with respect to postoperative length of stay (3.4 days for PCA vs 3.6 days for traditional). Patients demonstrated a wide range of analgesic requirement in the first 24 hours but the average of the total analgesic required was higher in the PCA group (average 29.5 mg) than the traditional group (22.8 mg). Urinary complications occurred more commonly in the group of patients receiving traditional analgesia than in the group of patients receiving analgesia with the PCA device. When compared with patients receiving analgesia by traditional methods, patients receiving the PCA infusion required more analgesia with fewer urinary complications and similar postoperative length of stay.