This study was conducted to demonstrate that experienced pediatricians using standard clinical indications for performing a lumbar puncture should have a higher yield of positive spinal taps than previously reported and also can detect bacterial meningitis. These indicators included temperature elevation, inability to be consoled, level of alertness, nuchal rigidity, bulging fontanel, decreased appetite, rash, referral, and febrile seizures. Eighty-two of 381 (22%) lumbar punctures were positive for pleocytosis and/or organisms. Patients were divided into two groups, consisting of those with one indicator (low risk) and those with greater than one indicator (high risk). Thirteen of 14 patients with bacterial meningitis were placed in the high risk group. The single patient in the low risk group had been pretreated with antibiotics. The positive predictive value in bacterial meningitis for a score greater than one was 5%. The average number of clinical indicators in bacterial meningitis was 3.7, versus 2.4 in viral meningitis and 1.6 without meningitis. These findings suggest that, in the absence of prior antibiotic therapy, an experienced pediatrician can clinically detect patients at high risk for bacterial meningitis. Nonbacterial meningitis cannot be as readily detected clinically.