Background: Intraoperative complications, particularly bile duct injuries (BDIs), have increased since die introduction of laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC). This excess risk is expected to decline as surgeon experience in laparoscopic surgery increases.Methods: This was a population-based study of trends in intraoperative injuries in 33 309 cholecystectomies carried out in Western Australia between 1988 and 1998, based on hospital discharge abstracts. Endpoints were identified from diagnostic and procedure codes in index or postoperative readmissions, or a register of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedures, and validated using hospital records. Multivariate analysis was used to estimate the risk of complications associated with potential risk factors.Results: Following the introduction of LC in 1991, the prevalence of all complications doubled by 1994 then stabilized, whereas that of BDI declined after 1994. The risk of complications increased with age, was higher in men, teaching and country hospitals, and was higher for LC and more complicated operations. It was lower when intraoperative cholangiography was performed and with increasing surgeon experience. Approximately 20 per cent of all complications and 30 per cent of BDIs were attributable to surgeons who had performed 200 or fewer cholecystectomies in the previous 5 years.Conclusion: The risk of intraoperative complications declined with increasing surgical experience and use of intraoperative cholangiography.