The costs and effects of open versus laparoscopic cholecystectomies are compared, from the point of view of hospitals and patients, for a consecutive series of 47 patients undergoing a cholecystectomy in the University Hospital Gasthuisberg, in Belgium. For the patients the laparoscopic technique is superior, since effects are better and direct costs are lower than for the open technique. From a financial viewpoint, hospitals have to weigh the higher costs of the laparoscopic equipment against the lower variable costs due to the shorter postoperative length of stay. Total hospital costs would be lower in case all cholecystectomies were performed with the laparoscopic rather than with the open technique if at least 140 cholecystectomies are done annually with the electrocautery technique, or 300 procedures with laser. However, more recent data reveal that the operating time reduces with the number of laparoscopic procedures (learning effects), implying that the laparoscopic electrocautery procedure would already be the cheaper alternative if more than 70 cholecystectomies are done annually, if disposables are used (or if 50 procedures are done with re-usables). It can be concluded that, once sufficient experience with laparoscopy has been achieved, most hospitals could realise cost savings by switching, as much as is medically justified, to laparoscopic procedures. This will also hold for hospitals performing few cholecystectomies, as long as re-usables and electrocautery are used.