In one surgical unit, 115 patients undergoing cholecystectomy were studied to compare patient recovery, subjective and objective pain experienced and complications after laparoscopic and open cholecystectomy. The data were collected prospectively where allocation to open or laparoscopic cholecystectomy was by consecutive attendance. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy was feasible in 90% of patients presenting with symptomatic gallstones. Compared with the open operation, laparoscopic cholecystectomy was safe with less peroperative and postoperative morbidity, was more cost-effective and was associated with faster patient recovery as documented by less postoperative pain, earlier return to diet, earlier full mobilisation and discharge home. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is superior to open cholecystectomy and should be available to all patients requiring elective cholecystectomy.