BACKGROUND The tumor size is considered as a limitation for laparoscopic adrenalectomy. The aim of this study was to assess diagnostic characteristics, hemodynamic modifications, and outcome of intraperitoneal laparoscopic adrenalectomy according to the size of pheochromocytoma. METHODS Retrospective study from January 1997 to December 2000. Results were evaluated according to the size of pathologic study (< or > or = 5 cm). RESULTS Forty two patients underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy during this period. Among them, 11 (26%) were operated on for adrenal pheochromocytoma (6 patients < 5 cm and 5 patients > or = 5 cm). Preoperative systolic hypertension was 138 mmHg and 178 mmHg respectively (p = 0.01). Urinary metanephrine/normetanephrine rate was 1.259 and 0.268 respectively (p = 0.08). Capsular tumor effraction rate was 27%. Tumor size was 37% larger than that estimated by CT scan (24% versus 52%). Mean hospital stay was 10 days and 8 days respectively. Morbidity and mortality were 18% and 0%. All these criteria were not statistically significant among the two groups of patients. CONCLUSIONS Pheochromocytoma size > or = 5 cm do not modify outcome of patients but is responsible for preferential noradrenaline secretion and stronger hemodynamic modifications. Tumor fragmentation rate and CT scan size underestimation seem important in this group of patients. These characteristics have to be integrated to improve laparoscopic adrenalectomy outcome of patients with pheochromocytoma > or = 5 cm.