The University Hospital Dijkzigt in Rotterdam is one of the first hospitals in The Netherlands to have a rehabilitation department providing multidisciplinary, hospital-based-in-patient rehabilitation (HBIR). The main goals of HBIR are to estimate the final optimum level of patient's functioning, to investigate the most appropriate treatment setting to achieve this and to fulfil requirements for discharge from hospital as soon as possible. One of the central issues in rehabilitation in the Netherlands is to obtain more insight into the current daily practice of HBIR. The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of the patients treated in HBIR in Dijkzigt Hospital. Registered data from 1967 HBIR patients treated between 1988 and 1990 were analysed retrospectively. The patients were on average 53.1 ( +/- 19.7) years old; the men (63%) were significantly younger than the women (mean age of 50.8 and 57.0 years, respectively). The main diagnostic groups were stroke (27%), progressive and regressive neurological conditions (17%), hand injuries (9%), spinal cord lesion (9%), orthopaedic injuries (8%) and amputation of lower extremity (8%). The median duration of HBIR and hospitalization were 13 days and 33 day, respectively. Most patients were discharged home (63%), or to a nursing home (14%) or a rehabilitation centre (8%). The results of this study can be used in policy discussions on HBIR and provides a description of the population which needs to be studied longitudinally in future research on the outcomes of HBIR.