Previous studies have suggested that EEG may be helpful in the diagnosis of herpes encephalitis (HE). To further define the value of EEG in an acutely ill, febrile, encephalopathic patient suspected as having encephalitis, we reviewed initial preoperative EEGs with the results of cerebral biopsies in 24 consecutive patients suspected of having encephalitis. Statistical analysis demonstrated that EEG patterns have only limited association with biopsy results. Since diseases which mimic encephalitis may also generate identical EEG changes, this is not an unexpected finding. EEG is useful in the evaluation and management of patients with encephalitis. However, the absence of specific wave forms or focal EEG abnormalities in the proper clinical setting should not deter consideration of HE or delay treatment.