Live donor renal transplantation provides significant advantages when compared with cadaveric donor renal transplantation in terms of improved patient and graft survival, a lower incidence of delayed function, and a shorter waiting time. Yet despite these advantages, live donors continue to be an under utilized source of kidneys for transplantation. Disincentives to live donation include the length of hospitalization, postoperative pain, cosmetic concerns, and the prolonged convalescence associated with the donor operation. In many instances minimally invasive video-assisted techniques have proven more efficacious than standard open procedures in terms of patient discomfort, length of hospital stay, cost, and length of time until the patient can return to full activity. Laparoscopic live donor nephrectomies are being performed at our institution in an attempt to make live donation more attractive to the potential donor. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively review the results of laparoscopic live donor nephrectomy (LapNx) and to compare them with those obtained using the standard open approach (OpenNx). Ten consecutive LapNx were performed from February 1995 through April 1996. The control group consisted of the 20 consecutive OpenNx performed at the same institution from January 1991 through January 1995 immediately before the initiation of the LapNx program. Live donors were considered candidates for LapNx if they possessed at least one kidney with normal renal anatomy with single renal vessels and a single ureter. LapNx was safely performed in all cases. No patients required open conversion or blood transfusions. The allograft warm ischemic time for the laparoscopic cases was 4.2+/-1.3 min. All kidneys harvested laparoscopically produced urine on the table immediately upon revascularization. Presently nine of the ten recipients have functioning allografts. At three months posttransplant the calculated recipient creatinine clearances were 67.0+/-11.5 ml/min and 64.8+/-21.4 ml/min for the LapNx and OpenNx groups, respectively (P=NS). The LapNx donors had a significantly decreased estimated blood loss, shorter time until resumption of oral intake, decreased postoperative pain (in terms of decreased analgesic requirements), shorter hospitalization, and a shorter interval until the resumption of full activities (P<0.05 for all). In addition, the LapNx group donors returned to work sooner than the OpenNx group (3.9+/-1.6 wk vs. 6.4+/-3.1 wk, respectively) (P=0.024). Four individuals agreed to donate a kidney only after learning of the availability of the laparoscopic approach. We conclude that laparoscopic live donor nephrectomy is technically feasible. In addition, it may offer significant advantages over the standard open approach in terms of patient comfort and convenience. These advantages may make live donor renal transplantation more attractive to prospective donors. The potential decrease in hospitalization and convalescence may also prove to be financially advantageous. We believe that further careful study of this procedure is warranted.