Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has rapidly emerged as a popular alternative to traditional laparotomy and cholecystectomy. Acute cholecystitis has been considered to be a relative or absolute contraindication to laparoscopic surgery. After gaining extensive experience in laparoscopic biliary tract surgery, this procedure was attempted in 15 patients with acute cholecystitis. All patients were operated on within 72 hours of admission. In five patients, the laparoscopic procedure was converted to an open laparotomy; in one patient, a localized abscess was found, and in the other four patients, extensive inflammation and edema precluded a safe dissection of the vascular and ductal structures. Laparoscopic cholangiography was performed in 14 patients and proved valuable in demonstrating the ductal anatomy. Patients were discharged an average of 2.7 days after the laparoscopic procedure. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy may be safely performed by experienced surgeons in patients with acute cholecystitis. To ensure a low complication rate, a low threshold for converting the procedure to an open laparotomy must be maintained if the ductal and vascular anatomy cannot be safely demonstrated.