To assess the long-term outcome and influence of clinical management of patients with Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia (SAB), 229 patients with blood cultures positive for Staphylococcus aureus between January 1997 and December 2000 were retrospectively identified and followed up. Risk factors, source of infection, treatment, clinical course, and outcome were recorded by chart review. For the assessment of 1-year survival, a questionnaire was sent to family doctors and government registration offices. Time of initial antibiotic therapy, duration of antibiotic treatment and performance of echocardiography were regarded as indicators of the quality of the clinical management of SAB. Among the 229 patients studied, 218 were evaluable for 1-year survival. Crude mortality after 1 year was 37.6% year. Within 30 days 43 (19.7%) patients had died, and 39 (17.9%) additional patients died thereafter. Using multivariate analysis, the following variables were associated with death: malignant disease (odds ratio [OR] 4.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.6-8.9), pneumonia (OR, 3.6; 95%CI, 1.2-10.2), age >60 years (OR, 2.6; 95%CI, 1.5-4.5), and known source of infection (OR, 2.3; 95%CI, 1.3-4.1). Among 160 patients with a completely assessable treatment course 73 (46%) had received antibiotics for at least 14 days. A delay of antibiotic treatment of 1 day or more after microbiological diagnosis was observed in 28.3% of patients (i.e., 60 of 212 patients who received at least 1 dose of antibiotics). Echocardiography was performed in 101 (44.1%) cases. Overall, the findings indicate that standard guidelines for the management of SAB are followed only in part in clinical practice. In order to reduce the considerable mortality associated with SAB and to improve short- and long-term outcome, efforts should be made to increase adherence to recommendations.