If morbidity and mortality are to be reduced in patients with penetrating abdominal trauma, first priority goes to prompt and accurate determination of peritoneal penetration and identification of the need for surgery. In this setting, laparoscopy may have an important impact on the rate of negative or non-therapeutic laparotomies. We analyzed indications and patient selection criteria for laparoscopy in penetrating trauma along with outcomes. The analysis focused on identification of peritoneal penetration and injuries to the diaphragm, small intestine, and mesentery. Results from the early phase of laparoscopy were compared with those from recent decades with more advanced laparoscopic equipment and instruments and more experienced surgeons. A systematic review of the role of laparoscopy in penetrating abdominal trauma shows a sensitivity ranging from 66.7 to 100%, specificity from 33.3 to 100% and accuracy from 50 to 100%. Publications from the 1990s found trauma laparoscopy to be inadequate for detecting intestinal injuries and so to lead to missed injuries. Twenty-three of the 50 studies including the most recent ones report sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 100%. Laparoscopy is more cost effective than negative laparotomy. Laparoscopy can be performed safely and effectively on stable patients with penetrating abdominal trauma. The most important advantages are reduction of morbidity, accuracy in detecting diaphragmatic and intestinal injuries, and elimination of prolonged hospitalization for observation, so reducing the length of stay and increasing cost effectiveness.