The aim of this study was to present the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of tetanus as related to case fatality in 43 adult patients hospitalized between 1990 and 2000 in Turkey's largest state tertiary hospital. All patients were greater than or equal to15 years of age, with the mean age being 45 years. Sixty-five percent of the patients were male. Most patients (77%) were from rural Anatolia. The most common clinical manifestations were trismus (100%), abdominal rigidity (93%), dysphagia (81%), and risus sardonicus (72%). The overall case fatality rate was 58%. In a multivariable logistic regression model an incubation period of less than or equal to8 days versus >8 days was a significant predictor of case fatality (odds ratio, 4.8; P=0.044; 95%CI, 1.04-22.26), as was each day of delay between onset of symptoms and admission to the hospital (odds ratio, 7.4; P=0.035; 95%CI, 1.15-48.28). Although the case fatality rate of tetanus in our clinic has declined in the last 5 years, the overall rate was high. This suggests a need for adult vaccination programs and/or a plan to educate the public to recognize symptoms early and then rapidly seek medical care.