We retrospectively studied the incidence of anaerobic bacteremia during 6 years (1991-1996) at Turku University Central Hospital (Turku, Finland). The clinical significance of a positive anaerobic blood culture, the effect of a positive culture on the choice of antimicrobial therapy, and the outcome for patients were evaluated. Cultures of blood from 81 patients yielded anaerobic bacteria (4% of all bacteremias). Anaerobic bacteremia was clinically significant in 57 patients (0.18 cases per 1,000 admissions). Only half (28) of these patients received appropriate and effective antimicrobial treatment before the results of blood cultures were reported; for 18 patients (32%), initially ineffective treatment was changed on the basis of the bacteriologic results, and for 11 patients (19%), the treatment was not changed. The mortality in these patient groups was 18%, 17%, and 55%, respectively. Empirical therapy may provide coverage for anaerobes in only half of the patients with anaerobic bacteremia, and failure to pay attention to the results of anaerobic blood cultures may have serious consequences for patients.