BACKGROUND Surgical resection is the mainstay of treatment for colorectal cancer with curative intent. AIM To evaluate the postoperative results of laparoscopic and laparotomic colorectal resections for colorectal cancer. METHODS A retrospective study of a series of 189 patients. The descriptive variables were age and gender, and for outcome were type of resection, number of lymph nodes resected, free margins, the need for colostomy, complications, operative time and hospital stay. They were analyzed using the chi-square, Student t and Mann-Whitney test, with significance level <0.05. RESULTS Of the 189 operated patients, 110 met the inclusion criteria, 75 (68.2%) operated by open surgery and 35 (31.8%) by laparoscopic. The sigmoid colon was the most common site presented by neoplasia and rectosigmoidectomy was performed more by open colorectal resection (p = 0.042). The conversion rate was 7.9% (3/38). The patients were operated by open surgery in 81.5% of time less than 180 minutes (p <0.001). In both pathways, the average number of removed lymph nodes was greater than 12, but laparotomy enabled, more frequently, the resection of 12 or more nodes (p = 0.012). No patient had surgical margins involved, but laparotomy allowed a greater number of patients with a margin greater than 5 cm from the tumor (p = 0.036). Increased number of patients treated by open surgery were hospitalized for more than seven days (p <0.001). There were no statistically significant differences regarding the need for ostomies, complications and mortality. CONCLUSIONS The laparoscopic approach was as safe and effective as laparotomy in the treatment of colorectal cancer, and was associated with increased operative time, shorter hospital stay and less morbidity.