Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia (SAP) continues to be a serious bacterial infection which is associated with a high incidence of complications. We retrospectively reviewed the case records of 36 infants and children admitted with SAP to the Sophia Children's Hospital between 1970 and 1992 to analyse changes over time in the clinical presentation, diagnostic work-up, management and complications. Fifteen of these 36 children (42%) were less than 1 year old. Fever (97%) and respiratory distress (83%) were the most common symptoms at the initial presentation. Chest X-ray findings on admission or during hospitalisation included pleural effusion (75%), pneumothorax (47%), and abscess and/or pneumatocele (39%). Diagnostic and/or therapeutic thoracentesis of pleural fluid was performed in 17 of the 36 patients (47%). Twenty-one patients (58%) needed chest tube drainage. Twelve had a thoracotomy (33%). Artificial ventilation was needed in 13 of the patients (36%). Extrapulmonary complications included convulsions in 6 patients (17%) and osteomyelitis in 2 children (6%). The mean duration of hospitalization was 36 days. Two of the 36 children died (6%). The low mortality rate in this study may be the result of the relatively high rate of thoracotomy and of improvements in supportive treatment.