We measured the plasma levels of adrenomedullin (AM), a novel vasodilating peptide, in 89 patients with various forms of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and 13 healthy volunteers serving as controls. Plasma levels of AM in SIRS (burns: 20.5 +/- 3. 2 fmol/ml [mean +/- SEM]; pancreatitis: 13.8 +/- 3.8 fmol/ml; trauma: 14.9 +/- 2.5 fmol/ml; traumatic shock: 41.1 +/- 7.8 fmol/ml; severe sepsis: 59.9 +/- 11.2 fmol/ml; septic shock: 193.5 +/- 30.1 fmol/ml) were significantly increased over those of controls (5.1 +/- 0.2 fmol/ml). The patients with traumatic shock or septic shock especially had higher levels of plasma AM than those with trauma or severe sepsis, respectively. These data showed that in patients with SIRS, plasma AM levels increased in proportion to the severity of illness. Subsequently, we measured the plasma levels of mediators such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI)-1, and thrombomodulin (TM) in patients with traumatic shock and septic shock. A significant correlation was observed between plasma AM and TNF-alpha levels in patients with septic shock, suggesting an important role for AM as well as of TNF-alpha in the pathophysiology of inflammation. Plasma AM and IL-8 levels correlated positively with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score, peak multiple organ failure (MOF) score during the first month and prognosis in patients with septic shock, as did plasma IL-6 levels in patients with traumatic shock. The plasma AM level might serve as a useful marker for evaluating the severity of disease and as an early predictor of subsequent organ failure and outcome in septic shock.