PURPOSE: Laparoscopy-assisted distal gastrectomy (LADG) is gaining wider acceptance as a minimally invasive treatment for early gastric cancer. Generally; LADG, with extraperigastric lymph node dissection, is considered a technically more complicated procedure for gastric cancer than a conventional open distal gastrectomy (CODG). LADG, with extraperigastric lymph node dissection, for gastric cancers has previously been described, but the safety, efficacy and clinical benefits of these types of surgery are still unclear. To evaluate the short-term surgical validity, surgical outcome of a LADG, with extraperigastric lymph node dissection, was compared with that of a CODG in early gastric cancer patients. METHODS: A retrospective study of 80 patients with early gastric cancer (EGC), who underwent a LADG, with extraperigastric lymph node dissection, between September 2004 and August 2006, at Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center, was performed. Over the same period, conventional open gastrectomies were performed in 97 patients, confirmed to have EGC from their pathology. Various clinicopathological parameters were evaluated from the medical records. RESULTS: The baseline characteristics, including gender, age, body mass index (BMI) and tumor size, were similar between the two groups. In the LADG group, the operation time was longer (P=0.000), but the blood loss was less (P=0.000) than in the CODG group. The postoperative recovery in the LADG group was faster, as reflected by the shorter time to pass gas and the shorter hospital stay, which resulted in significantly lower serum white blood cell count amylase and C-reactive protein levels on day 1. Pathological examinations showed the surgery to be equally radical in the two groups. CONCLUSION: According to this study; LADG, with extraperigastric lymph node dissection, is a safe and technically feasible procedure for the treatment of early gastric cancer. The LADG procedure provides several advantages to that of a conventional open distal gastrectomy; less inflammatory reactions, a rapid return of gastrointestinal function and a shorter hospital stay, with no decrease in the operative curability.