A study was carried out of 137 patients with a diagnosis of acute appendicitis who were randomized to either laparoscopic or open appendicectomy. Patients found to have perforated or normal appendices at histological examination were excluded. Fifty-two patients undergoing laparoscopic appendicectomy and those receiving 5.7 open procedures were analysed. Laparoscopic appendicectomy took no longer than the open procedure (mean 43 versus 40 min). The number of doses of pethidine (1 mg per kg body-weight) required in the immediate postoperative period did not differ between the two groups but the mean number of doses of oral analgesic (naproxen sodium 550 mg twice daily) required was less in patients undergoing laparoscopic appendicectomy (2.8 versus 5.0, P < 0.05). There was no significant difference between time to resumption of fluid and diet intake and length of hospital stay. There were five (9 per cent) wound infections after open appendicectomy compared with none after the laparoscopic operation (P < 0.01). Patients who underwent laparoscopy returned to full home (17 versus 30 days, P < 0.01) and social (19 versus 32 days, P < 0.05) activities earlier than those who underwent open operation. Laparoscopic appendicectomy may allow reduction in the number of wound infections and earlier return to normal activities.