BACKGROUND: This paper compares the costs of disposable and reusable instruments in laparoscopic cholecystectomy. METHODS: The instrument set considered includes those instruments that are available in both a reusable and disposable form. A market study within the Belgian market was performed in order to compare purchase prices. In addition, costs of cleaning, sterilization, wrapping, maintenance, repair, and disposal of waste were calculated. The effects of reusables and disposables were examined by means of a literature overview. RESULTS: It was calculated that the instrument cost per procedure of a full disposable set is 7.4-27.7 times higher than the cost per procedure with reusables. In comparison with disposables, modular systems ("semidisposable") and mixed use of disposables and reusables reduce costs, but still the cost per procedure remains higher than with reusables. A sensitivity analysis confirmed that these conclusions are robust to the model assumptions. In addition, the available evidence in the literature suggests that reusables do not compromise patient or staff safety. CONCLUSIONS: If reusables are used instead of disposables when performing a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, considerable savings can be achieved without compromising patient and staff safety.