Patients with traumatic acute subdural hematoma were studied to determine the factors influencing outcome. Between January 1986 and August 1995, we collected 113 patients who underwent craniotomy for traumatic acute subdural hematoma. The relationship between initial clinical signs and the outcome 3 months after admission was studied retrospectively. Functional recovery was achieved in 38% of patients and the mortality was 60%. 91% of patients with a high Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score (9-15) and 23% of patients with a low GCS score (3-8) achieved functional recovery. All of 14 patients with a GCS score of 3 died. The mortality of patients with GCS scores of 4 and 5 was 95% to 75%, respectively. Patients over 61 years old had a mortality of 73% compared to 64% mortality for those aged 21-40 years. 97% of patients with bilateral unreactive pupil and 81% of patients with unilateral unreactive pupil died. The mortality rates of associated intracranial lesions were 91% in intracerebral hematoma, 87% in subarachnoid hemorrhage, 75% in contusion. Time from injury to surgical evacuation and type of surgical intervention did not affect mortality. Age and associated intracranial lesions were related to outcome. Severity of injury and pupillary response were the most important factors for predicting outcome.