We estimated the incidence and mortality of bacteraemia in the County of North Jutland and examined factors that could explain the changes observed. A population-based survey of bacteraemia was conducted in the Danish County of North Jutland during 1981-1994. Data were retrieved from a regional bacteraemia register. The mortality was determined through linkage to the Danish Civil Registration System. A total of 7198 bacteraemias were detected, and the annual incidence increased from 76 per 100,000 person-years in 1981 to 153 in 1994. One major determining factor was a change in blood culture system with a higher volume of blood per sample, but annual numbers of blood cultures also increased. The 30-day mortality rate increased from 17 to 40 per 100,000 person-years during the study period, whereas the case-fatality rate remained constant (23.6%; 95% confidence intervals 22.6%-24.6%). The number of bacteraemias increased significantly. This observation could be explained only partly by changes in demography, in blood culture system, and in diagnostic activity. The case fatality rate remained constant despite the fact that more people were diagnosed with bacteraemia; this indicates that, with recent blood culture practice, more clinically significant bacteraemias are diagnosed.