C-reactive protein (CRP) was identified in 1930 and was subsequently considered to be an "acute phase protein," an early indicator of infectious or inflammatory conditions. Since its discovery, CRP has been studied as a screening device for inflammation, a marker for disease activity, and as a diagnostic adjunct. Improved methods of quantifying CRP have led to increased application to clinical medicine. In the emergency department (ED), CRP must be interpreted in the clinical context; no single value can be used to rule in or rule out a specific diagnosis. We conclude that CRP has limited utility in the ED. It may be a useful adjunct to serial examinations in equivocal presentations of appendicitis in those centers without ready access to computed tomography (CT) scan. It may be elevated with complications or treatment failures in patients with pneumonia, pancreatitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and urinary tract infections. In patients with meningitis, neonatal sepsis, and occult bacteremia, CRP is usually elevated. However, CRP has no role in diagnosing these clinical entities, and a normal CRP level should never delay antibiotic coverage.