Twelve cases of purulent pericarditis seen over 6 years are described. Staphylococcus aureus was the most common causative organism (six patients), and a respiratory infection was the most common preceding illness. The chest radiograph and echocardiogram were useful pointers to the diagnosis, but the electrocardiogram was not reliable. Antibiotics, surgical drainage, and pericardiectomy were used in all 12 cases. There was one death (8.3%), which occurred in a patient who was seen late. A review of the literature dealing with the diagnosis and management of this condition is presented. The importance of early diagnosis before a significant degree of cardiac tamponade occurs is noted. Although there is general agreement that surgical drainage is mandatory, the approach, methods of drainage, and extent of pericardial resection have been the subject of some discussion, and at least seven techniques are available. We conclude that pericardiectomy has a definite place in the management of purulent pericarditis.