BACKGROUND: Recent reports suggest that laparoscopic paraesophageal hernia repair (LPHR) is feasible, but no direct comparisons with the standard open paraesophageal hernia repair (OPHR) have been reported. The purpose of this study was to compare the short-term outcome of LPHR versus OPHR at a single institution. METHODS: The operative and postoperative courses of 95 consecutive patients undergoing open or laparoscopic repair of a paraesophageal hernia (PEH) were retrospectively reviewed, and outcomes of LPHR versus OPHR were compared. RESULTS: PEH was associated with advanced age and significant comorbidity. Although the operative time was increased for LPHR, there was a significant reduction in blood loss, intensive care unit stay, ileus, hospital stay, and overall morbidity associated with LPHR compared with OPHR. CONCLUSIONS: PEH is associated with significant comorbidity that increases the operative risk. Short-term outcomes for LPHR are superior to OPHR, suggesting that the laparoscopic approach is the preferred approach to paraesophageal hernia repair.