An overall hospital mortality rate of 3.9% was found in 929 episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis treated in single centre over a 21-year period. The mortality rate in the first half of the survey (4.4%) was not significantly different from that in the second half of the survey (3.4%). Six deaths in patients under 50 years of age occurred in the first half, but only one death under 50 years occurred in the second half of the survey. The number of deaths from a metabolic cause where no other illness was identified also fell from nine (43% of deaths) in the first half to five (33% of deaths) in the second half of the study (not significant). The remaining deaths were due to concurrent illness, mainly myocardial infarction and serious infections. Many of the residual deaths occurred in elderly patients with such medical illness in addition to the ketoacidosis. It may, therefore, prove difficult to reduce mortality further in diabetic ketoacidosis.