Our objective was to analyze the presentation, time to antibiotics, treatment, and mortality of patients with bacterial meningitis at a large urban county hospital over a 10-year period. A retrospective chart review of all patients with the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was done. Information concerning presentation, etiologic organisms, treatment (including time to antibiotics), and outcomes were collected and analyzed. There were 165 charts reviewed with 171 total cases of bacterial meningitis. For adults with community-acquired meningitis, the mortality rate was 14%, for children it was 1.6%. Seventy-six percent of patients received antibiotics in the Emergency Department (ED) with a mean time to antibiotics of 1:08 h +/- 13 min. The rest received them as inpatients with a mean time to antibiotics of 6 +/- 9 h. The mortality rate for patients with community-acquired disease who received an Emergency Department antibiotic was 7.9%; for patients who received their antibiotics as inpatients the mortality rate was 29%. Our results indicate that the mortality rates from bacterial meningitis at our institution are lower than previously published results. Furthermore, our study supports the concept that the early administration of antibiotics in the ED may reduce mortality and may be an explanation of the lower mortality rates seen here.