In an examination of the relationships among plasma aminoglycoside concentrations, the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) for the infecting organism, and therapeutic outcome, data were analyzed from 236 patients with gram-negative bacterial infections who were participants in four clinical trials of gentamicin, tobramycin, and amikacin. Clinical response to therapy occurred in 188 (80%) patients. Elevated maximal and mean peak aminoglycoside concentration/MIC ratios were strongly associated with clinical response (P less than .00001 and P less than .0001, respectively). A graded dose-response effect was found between an increasing maximal peak concentration/MIC ratio and clinical response. By logistic regression the peak concentration/MIC ratios were associated significantly with clinical response after adjustment for underlying severity of illness and other factors correlated with response. These results demonstrate that a high peak concentration relative to the MIC for the infecting organism is a major determinant of the clinical response to aminoglycoside therapy.