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Laparoscopic alternatives to conventional surgical procedures confer many advantages to patients including reduced postoperative pain, shortened convalescence and, perhaps, improved disease-related outcomes. The diminished degree of immune dysfunction apparent with these techniques may underpin these beneficial aspects. However, minimal access is accompanied by various ancillary anesthetic and mechanical associations (including the induction of a carbon dioxide pneumoperitoneum), which must be considered in addition to reduced tissue trauma when attempting to correlate cause with effect. Furthermore, the opportunity to establish causation between the immunomodulatory aspects of laparoscopy and subsequent clinical outcome by prospective, randomized study is difficult because of the rapid incorporation of minimal access techniques into clinical practice. Therefore, experimental in vitro and in vivo studies must be used to complement the limitations of clinical studies in this area. Although the initial investigations into the immunological effects of laparoscopy are encouraging, many of the intricacies associated with this approach still await elaboration.