The National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance System (NNIS) is an ongoing collaborative surveillance system sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to obtain national data on nosocomial infections. The CDC uses the data that are reported voluntarily by participating hospitals to estimate the magnitude of the nosocomial infection problem in the United States and to monitor trends in infections and risk factors. Hospitals collect data by prospectively monitoring specific groups of patients for infections with the use of protocols called surveillance components. The surveillance components used by the NNIS are hospitalwide, intensive care unit, high-risk nursery, and surgical patient. Detailed information including demographic characteristics, infections and related risk factors, pathogens and their antimicrobial susceptibilities, and outcome, is collected on each infected patient. Data on risk factors in the population of patients being monitored are also collected; these permit the calculation of risk-specific rates. An infection risk index, which includes the traditional wound class, is being evaluated as a predictor of the likelihood that an infection will develop after an operation. A major goal of the NNIS is to use surveillance data to develop and evaluate strategies to prevent and control nosocomial infections. The data collected with the use of the surveillance components permit the calculation of risk-specific infection rates, which can be used by individual hospitals as well as national health-care planners to set priorities for their infection control programs and to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts. The NNIS will continue to evolve in finding more effective and efficient ways to assess the influence of patient risk and changes in the financing of health care on the infection rate.