Objective. To assess the efficacy and safety of radical trachelectomy (RT) and radical hysterectomy (RH) for patients with early cervical cancer. Design. Systematic review with meta-analysis. Population. Women who had early cervical cancer. Methods. Prospective controlled clinical trials comparing RT with RH were identified using a predefined search strategy. Recurrence, five-year recurrence-free survival rate, five-year overall survival rate, postoperative mortality, intraoperative and postoperative complications between the two operations were compared by using the methods provided by the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Results. Three controlled clinical trials involving 587 participants were included. Meta-analysis showed that there was no significant difference between the two groups in recurrence rate [1.38; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.58–3.28, p=0.47], five-year recurrence-free survival rate (1.17; 95% CI 0.54–2.53, p=0.69), five-year overall survival rate (0.86; 95% CI 0.30–2.43, p=0.78), postoperative mortality (1.14; 95% CI 0.42–3.11, p=0.80), intraoperative complications (1.66; 95% CI 0.11–25.28, p=0.72), postoperative complications (0.52; 95% CI 0.11–2.48, p=0.41), blood transfusion (0.29; 95% CI 0.06–1.36, p=0.12) and number of harvested lymph nodes. However, RT, compared with RH, reduced blood loss and shortened duration to normal urine residual volume and postoperative hospital stay. Moreover, RT may achieve to normal conception rates, while RH makes patients sterile. Conclusions. Radical trachelectomy has similar efficacy and safety to RH as the surgical treatment for early cervical cancer. Moreover, it reduced blood loss and shortened the duration to normal urine residual volumes and postoperative hospital stay. Radical trachelectomy can be used to treat early stage cervical cancer as an alternative operation for patients who wish to preserve fertility.