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Laparoscopic surgery for benign and malignant pancreatic lesions has slowly been gaining acceptance over the past decade and is being introduced in many centres. Some studies suggest that this approach is equivalent to or better than open surgery, but randomized data are needed to assess outcomes. In this Review, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the art in laparoscopic pancreatic surgery by aggregating high-quality published evidence. Various aspects, including the benefits, limitations, oncological efficacy, learning curve and latest innovations, are discussed. The focus is on laparoscopic Whipple procedure and laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy for both benign and malignant disease, but robot-assisted surgery is also addressed. Surgical and oncological outcomes are discussed as well as quality of life parameters and the cost efficiency of laparoscopic pancreatic surgery. We have also included decision-aid algorithms based on the literature and our own expertise; these algorithms can assist in the decision to perform a laparoscopic or open procedure.