Laparoscopic and open techniques are both recognized treatment options for ventral hernias. We conducted a prospective randomized trial of both methods, to assess hernia recurrence, postoperative recovery and complications. Fifty-eight patients with ventral hernias were enrolled into the trial between August 2003 and December 2005. Of these, 31 underwent laparoscopic repair and 27 underwent open repair. Clinical parameters were documented on all patients during a median follow-up period of 27.5 months. The demographics of the two groups were similar. There was one recurrence in each of the laparoscopic and open groups. There was an equivalent rate of operative time, length of stay, postoperative pain scores, return to normal activities, wound infection and seroma formation between the two groups. Laparoscopic and open ventral hernia repair are comparable and offer low recurrence rates.