Diagnostic laparoscopy is minimally invasive surgery for the diagnosis of intraabdominal diseases. This study aim was a critical examination of the available literature on the role of laparoscopy for the diagnosis and treatment of acute intraabdominal conditions. A systematic literature search of English-language articles on MEDLINE, the Cochrane database of evidence-based reviews, and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects was performed for the period 1995-2006. The level of evidence in the identified articles was graded. This review examines the role of diagnostic laparoscopy for acute nonspecific abdominal pain, trauma, and the acute abdomen experienced by the critically ill patient. The indications, contraindications, risks, benefits, diagnostic accuracy of the procedure, and associated morbidity are discussed. The limitations of the available literature are highlighted, and evidence-based recommendations for the use of diagnostic laparoscopy to determine acute intraabdominal conditions are provided.