In order to assess the epidemiology, clinical features and outcome of tuberculous meningitis, a retrospective review of patients was conducted between January 1989 and December 1995. Forty cases (representing 10%, of all paediatric patients with tuberculosis) were included. Mean age was 46 months (range 1-165 months). Eighteen (45%) children were classified as stage I (non-specific febrile illness without neurological signs), 16 (40%) as stage II (neurological signs without marked changes in sensorium) and 6 (15%) as stage III (major neurological signs with sensorial changes and/or coma). Twenty-seven (67%) patients had received BCG vaccination and 14 (35%) displayed an induration zone higher than 10 mm after a 2-TU PPD test. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was recovered from 24 (61%) patients. Hydrocephalus was demonstrated by cranial computed tomography in 31 (78%) children. Overall, 18 (45%) children had a full recovery. Mild, moderate and severe neurological sequelae were shown by 7 (18%), 3 (8%) and 9 (22%) of the patients, respectively. Three fatal cases (7%) were observed. The presence of seizures (RR 15.6, 2.02-119.1) and absence of extrameningeal foci (RR 4.95, 1.10-22.1) were identified as risk factors by multivariate analysis. These findings emphasize the need quickly to diagnose tuberculosis in children in order to give appropriate and early treatment.