The proposed benefits of laparoscopy for certain surgical procedures have been decreased postoperative pain and hospital stay balanced against the proposed deficits of increased costs. We have reviewed our data to evaluate factors associated with patient, procedure, and hospital charges for patients undergoing open versus laparoscopic adrenalectomy and splenectomy during the same time period. Eighty-seven patients underwent adrenalectomy (n = 47) or splenectomy (n = 40) from October 30, 1995 to June 6, 2001 and were retrospectively reviewed. Patient and operative factors were analyzed by intent to treat; the major endpoints were operating room (OR) time in minutes, blood loss in cm3, length of hospital stay in days, and charges broken down by anesthesia/operation [OR/recovery room (RR)] and total charges in dollars x 1000. Comparisons of means were analyzed by unpaired t test; data are presented as mean ± SEM, and significance is defined as P < 0.05. Median age of the group was 47 years (range 20-77). Forty-five patients underwent a laparoscopic approach of which two were converted to open (4%) as compared with 42 undergoing an open operation; one patient from each group was excluded from outcome analyses because of prolonged hospitalization (>3 weeks). Operative mortality of the whole group was one per cent. There were no differences between the groups with respect to age, gender, or comorbidity. The laparoscopic group had significantly longer operative times and OR/RR charges. However, the length of hospital stay and the total charges for the patient undergoing a laparoscopic approach were significantly less (P < 0.05). We conclude that a laparoscopic approach for adrenalectomy or splenectomy can be accomplished in approximately 95 per cent of patients selected for this procedure. Despite prolonged OR time and increased OR/RR charges the laparoscopic procedures resulted in significantly decreased length of hospital stay and overall patient charges. Laparoscopy is a safe and cost-effective approach and should be strongly considered in patients requiring adrenalectomy or splenectomy.