BACKGROUND: For complicated appendicitis, in contrast to simple appendicitis, laparoscopic appendectomy (LA) is considered a relative or absolute contraindication because of the higher postoperative complication rate than that of open appendectomy (OA), especially, high incidence of intra-abdominal abscess. The purpose of this article is to assess the feasibility of LA for complicated appendicitis. METHODS: A retrospective review of 35 LA and 128 OA for the cases of gangrenous, perforated appendicitis, and periappendiceal abscess between May 1995 and June 1997 was performed. Patients were identified through the hospital pathology registry. We compared data from both groups with respect to operative times, postoperative pain, duration of ileus, length of hospital stay, and complication rate, with special attention to the incidence of intra-abdominal abscess. RESULTS: 1) The male:female ratio of LA (1:1.2) was significantly lower than that of OA (1:0.45) (p<0.05). There was no significant difference in the age distribution between both groups. 2) The mean operative time of LA (58.3 minutes) was significantly longer than that of OA (51.8 minutes) (p<0.05). 3) The mean number of injections of analgesics and the mean duration of ileus represented an advantage for LA (1.2 times and 1.8 days) than those of OA (1.6 times and 2.0 days). But these differences did not reach statistical significance. 4) The length of hospital stay of LA (6.5 days) was shorter than that of OA (7.8 dyas) (p<0.05). 5) Overall postoperative complication rate was lower in LA (11.4%) compared with OA (11.7) (p>0.05). But LA was associated with higher incidence of postoperative intra-abdominal abscess (3/35, 8.6%) than OA (3/128, 2.3%) (p=0.114). There was one serious intra-abdominal abscess in the LA, which required reoperation. The rest 2 cases in the LA and all 3 cases in the OA were treated conservatively. CONCLUSIONS: LA for complicated appendicitis could afford the merits of shorter hospital stay, reduced incidenceof wound infection, and comparable incidence of overall complication rate. To reduce the incidence of postoperative intra-abdominal abscess, copious irrigation and adequate drainage should be recommended.