BACKGROUND: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy has become the gold-tandard treatment for symptomatic gallbladder diseases. The evaluation and the treatment of common duct pathology is an essential component in the surgical management of biliary tract disease. The purpose of the present study was to identify the value and the importance of laparoscopic cholangiography compared to endoscopic retrograde cholangiography (ERC) in a laparoscopic cholecystectomy and to suggest the role of laparoscopic cholangiography in the management of patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy. METHODS: A laparoscopic cholecystectomy was attempted in two hundred six consecutive patients treated at Hallym University between January 1993 and December 1996. Patients were divided into three groups: In group I, 167 patients were examined with preoperative ERC while in group II, 17 patients were examined with laparoscopic cholangiography; Group III included 22 patients who were not examined with preoperative ERC or laparoscopic cholangiography. RESULTS: The average age was 52.78 years in group I, 45.62 years in group II, and 49.22 years in group III. The average operative time was 76.88 minutes in group I, 131.47 minutes in group II, and 85.22 minutes in group III. The operative time in group II was longer than that in group I (p<0.001). The duration of postoperative hospitalization was 4.9 days in group I and 4.11 days in group II, but this difference was not statistically significant (p=0.166). Conversion to an open cholecystectomy was 17/167 (10%) in group I, 1/17 (5%) in group II and 5/22 (22%). No complications or deaths occurred that were due to laparoscopic cholangiography. The postoperative complications in group I/II/III included bile leakage (3/0/2), bleeding in the bed of the gallbladder (5/0/0), wound bleeding (2/1/1), recurrent common duct stones (2/0/0), subcutaneous emphysema (4/1/0), shoulder pain (12/3/0), and wound infections (15/2/1). CONCLUSIONS: Although cholangiography may not be indicated for all patients undergoing a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, it will eventually be required. We conclude that laparoscopic cholangiography, as well as ERC, is a good method for evaluating the biliary tree. Laparoscopic cholangiography is clinically useful in patients who have negative ultrasonography and a dilated bile duct. Also, laparoscopic cholangiography has many advantages, especially at a teaching hospital: it outlines the anatomy of the extrahepatic biliary tree, identifies anomalies of surgical importance in time before iatrogenic damage is inflicted, detects stones in the cystic duct, discovers unsuspected stones, and develops experience with the technique. However, it is technically diffult to cannulate cystic duct and extends the operating time.