OBJECTIVE Our objective was to compare the clinical outcomes and associated hospital charges between two methods of hysterectomy for patients with early-stage endometrial cancer. METHODS Retrospective chart review of 320 patients with early-stage endometrial cancer treated by laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH) or total abdominal hysterectomy (TAH) was performed for the period of July 1, 1991, to September 30, 1996, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. RESULTS Sixty-nine patients (22%) were treated by LAVH, and 251 (78%) were treated by TAH. The majority of the patients (80%) had Stage I disease. The mean age was similar for both groups: 60 years for the LAVH vs 61 years for TAH. The mean weight was significantly lower for the LAVH group, 71 kg (range 43-117 kg), than for the TAH group, 82 kg (range 38-200 kg), (P < 0.05). Overall complication rates were lower among patients treated by LAVH. Operating room time was longer for the LAVH group (214 min) than for the TAH group (144 min) (P < 0.05). The median length of stay was significantly shorter for patients treated by LAVH (2.0 days) compared to TAH (6.0 days) (P < 0.05). Room charges were significantly higher for the TAH patients ($6960) compared to the LAVH patients ($3130) (P < 0.05). Overall mean total charges were significantly less for the LAVH group ($11,826) than for the TAH group ($15,189) (P < 0.05). With a median follow-up of 30 months for the TAH group and 18 months for the LAVH group, there was no significant difference in disease recurrence (P = 0.91). CONCLUSION Patients treated by LAVH for early-stage endometrial cancer had significantly shorter hospitalization and fewer complications, resulting in less overall hospital charges when compared to patients treated by TAH. Long-term outcome was similar. Laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy is an attractive alternative for selected patients with early-stage endometrial cancer.