We abstracted the results of all English language reports of the outcomes of bacterial meningitis published after 1955. We used hierarchical Bayesian meta-analysis to determine the overall and organism-specific frequencies of death and persistent neurologic sequelae in children 2 months to 19 years of age. A total of 4920 children with acute bacterial meningitis were included in 45 reports that met the inclusion criteria. Children described in the 19 reports of prospectively enrolled cohorts from developed countries had lower mortality (4.8% vs. 8.1%) and were more likely to have no sequelae (82.5% vs. 73.9%). In these 19 studies 1602 children were evaluated for at least 1 sequela after hospital discharge. The mean probabilities of these sequelae were: deafness, 10.5%; bilateral severe or profound deafness, 5.1%; mental retardation, 4.2%; spasticity and/or paresis, 3.5%; seizure disorder, 4.2%; and no detectable sequelae, 83.6%. Mean probabilities of outcomes varied significantly by etiologic bacteria, e.g. mortality: Haemophilus influenzae, 3.8%; Neisseria meningitis, 7.5%; Streptococcus pneumoniae, 15.3%.