Background Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition in Western countries. It is unknown whether medical or surgical treatment is more cost-effective. This study was conducted to determine whether laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication or treatment by proton pump inhibitors is the most cost-effective for gastroesophageal reflux disease in the long term. Methods Medline, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were searched for articles published between January 1990 and 2010. The search results were screened by two independent reviewers for economic evaluations comparing costs and effects of laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication and proton pump inhibitors in adults eligible for both treatments. Cost and effectiveness or utility data were extracted for both treatment modalities. The quality of the economic evaluations was scored using a dedicated checklist, as were the levels of evidence. Results Four publications were included; all were based on decision analytic models. The economic evaluations were all of similar quality and all based on data with a variety of evidence levels. Surgery was more expensive than medical treatment in three publications. Two papers reported more quality-adjusted life-years for surgery. However, one of these reported more symptom-free months for medical treatment. In two publications surgery was considered to be the most cost-effective treatment, whereas the other two favored medical treatment. Conclusions The results with regard to cost-effectiveness are inconclusive. All four economic models are based on high- and low-quality data. More reliable estimates of costeffectiveness based on long-term trial data are needed. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011.