Antibiotic usage for initial empirical treatment of infections in hospitalized patients was assessed by means of a questionnaire sent to physicians in charge of surgical and medical intensive care units, departments of neurosurgery, neurology, general surgery, thoracic surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics. Analysis of a total of 82 questionnaires filled in by the various departments revealed that the most frequently used regimens for initial empirical therapy were combinations of a broad spectrum penicillin with an amino-glycoside or of a second generation cephalosporin with an aminoglycoside in intensive care. Third generation cephalosporins ranked third among combination partners with aminoglycosides. Imipenem and fluoroquinolones were used only rarely for first line treatment. Second line treatment was most frequently with third generation cephalosporins or imipenem/cilastatin for internal wards and intensive care with an extension for staphylococcal infections with vancomycin or teicoplanin as the most frequent additional antibiotics. Patterns of antibiotic usage changed with regard to infection sites with a predominance of third generation cephalosporins or broad spectrum penicillins in combination with an aminoglycoside and metronidazole in abdominal sepsis and peritonitis. In case of pneumonia a differentiation between community acquired and hospital acquired pneumonias was made. Treatment was predominantly carried out with penicillin G, ampicillin or a second generation cephalosporin with or without the addition of an aminoglycoside in case of community acquired pneumonia. The addition of clindamycin or metronidazole was considered for suspected staphylococcal infection or aspiration pneumonia. Third generation cephalosporins were preferred for pneumonia treatment in surgical patients.