Computer-assisted surveillance of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) was compared with conventional manual registration (our gold standard i.e. reference method) by chart reviews of nosocomial infections in patients from surgical and medical departments. By combining selected infection parameters from various electronic hospital registries, the computer detected general HAIs with a sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 47%. However, defining septicaemia, urinary tract infection (UTI), pneumonia and postoperative wound infection (PWI) specifically by sets of simplified criteria (infection parameters), computer-assisted surveillance was able to detect these infections with a sensitivity ranging between 82% (UTI) and 100% (septicaemia), and a specificity ranging between 91% (PWI) and 100% (septicaemia) compared with conventional manual registration. We conclude that computer surveillance based on data collected for other purposes in electronic hospital registries is an effective method for monitoring HAIs.