Results of elective open cholecystectomy in 1252 patients treated in a North American and a European center were examined using a recent standardized classification of complications. Although there were significant differences between centers in population age, rate of concomitant disorders, and numbers of operators, the frequency and severity of complications were comparable. There were no deaths, but 12% and 14% of the patients developed complications in the two centers. About 6% of the patients developed grade I complications. Grade II complications were noted in 6% and 8%, and grade III in 0% and 0.3%. Using univariate and multivariate analysis, individual risk factors for developing complications were found to be different in the two centers. Two preoperative scoring systems, ASA and a simplified APACHE II, were predictive for complications in both centers, but did not account for all risk in these patients. Data from the two centers could not be combined because of significant interaction between risk factors and center. Elective open cholecystectomy is a safe procedure, particularly in terms of highly morbid complications and death. Generalization of risk factors identified in a particular center may be misleading because local conditions may significantly affect risk factors for complications. The data also demonstrate the advantages of a uniform way of reporting surgical complications, which may permit meaningful comparisons among centers.