Most general surgeons are familiar with monopolar electrocautery, but few are equally comfortable with laser dissection and coagulation. At courses across the country, surgeons are being introduced to laparoscopy and laser use in one and two day courses, and are certified from that day forward as laser laparoscopists. Some surgeons are told that laser and electrosurgery may be equally acceptable techniques for performance of laparoscopic surgery, but that a surgeon may double his patient volume by advertising 'laser laparoscopic cholecystectomy.' The sale of certain lasers has skyrocketed on the basis of such hype. The only surprise is that laparoscopic cholecystectomy complications occurring in this country seem to be more closely related to the laparoscopic access and visualization than to the choice of laser of electrocautery as the preferred instrument for thermal dissection. The purpose of this article is to: 1) Discuss the physics and tissue effects of electrosurgery and laser; 2) compare the design and safety of electrosurgical and laser delivery systems; and 3) present available data comparing laser and electrocautery application in laparoscopic cholecystectomy.