To define the natural history of relapsing polychondritis, the probability of survival and causes of death were determined in 112 patients seen at one institution. By using covariate analysis, early clinical manifestations were identified that predicted mortality. The 5- and 10-year probabilities of survival after diagnosis were 74% and 55%, respectively. The most frequent causes of death were infection, systemic vasculitis, and malignancy. Only 10% of the deaths could be attributed to airway involvement by chondritis. Anemia at diagnosis was a marker for decreased survival in the entire group. There was an interaction between other disease variables and age in determining their impact on outcome. For patients less than 51 years old, saddle-nose deformity and systemic vasculitis were the worst prognostic signs. For older patients, only anemia predicted outcome. The need for corticosteroid therapy did not influence survival.