BACKGROUND: Lateral laparoscopic splenectomy in adults, first reported in 1991, was begun with children in 1993. METHODS: The authors reviewed records of 59 patients 2 to 17 years old who underwent laparoscopic splenectomy by the lateral approach between 1994 and 1998 at four medical centers. Patients received prophylactic penicillin or vaccinations preoperatively. RESULTS: Of the 59 patients, 51 required splenectomy for one of the following conditions: idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, hereditary spherocytosis, or sickle-cell disease. Splenomegaly was found in 86% of the patients, and ten accessory spleens were resected. No deaths or infection occurred, and only three patients had perioperative complications: acute chest crisis, small diaphragmatic injury, and intraoperative hemorrhage. One operation was converted to a minilaparatomy because of difficulty with specimen extraction. CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric laparoscopic splenectomy is safe and effective, resulting in little blood loss, rapid recovery, and a good cosmetic outcome.