We retrospectively reviewed 159 episodes of bacteraemic pneumococcal infection in 157 adult patients at the Helsinki University Central Hospital during two periods between 1976 and 1979 and 1986 and 1989. We looked especially at changes in underlying diseases and prognostic factors. The overall case fatality rate was 21% and there was a small diminishing trend in that rate from 28% (16/58) in the late 1970s to 17% (17/101) in the late 1980s. The patients who died in the late 1980s were younger than those who died in the earlier period. The most common underlying factors were alcohol abuse, cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Old age was neither a predisposing factor nor did it predict the outcome. No significant changes in underlying diseases or prognostic factors were noted during the two periods studied except a small decrease in connective tissue diseases as underlying conditions. The factors related to increased fatality included hepatic cirrhosis, a combination of pneumonia and meningitis, complications such as shock, respiratory insufficiency, central nervous system disorders and circulatory acidosis, and laboratory findings such as thrombocytopenia, absence of leucocytosis and increased amounts of serum creatinine, aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase on admission to the hospital. Previous splenectomy and malignant diseases were not associated with higher mortality. The thrombocytopenia at the time of positive blood culture and the circulatory acidosis as a complication seemed to be independently the most useful predictive factors for a fatal outcome using multivariate logistical regression analysis after adjustment to classic risk factors.