Serum concentrations of immunoreactive tumor necrosis factor/cachectin (TNF), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), interferon-gamma (IFN gamma), and interferon-alpha (IFN alpha) were prospectively measured in 70 patients with septic shock to determine their evolution and prognostic values. In a univariate analysis, levels of TNF (P = .002) and IL-1 beta (P = .05) were associated with the patient's outcome, but not IFN alpha (P = .15) and IFN gamma (P = .26). In contrast, in a stepwise logistic regression analysis, the severity of the underlying disease (P = .01), the age of the patient (P = .02), the documentation of infection (nonbacteremic infections vs. bacteremias, P = .03), the urine output (P = .04), and the arterial pH (P = .05) contributed more significantly to prediction of patient outcome than the serum levels of TNF (P = .07). After 10 days, the median concentration of TNF was undetectable (less than 100 pg/ml) in the survivors, whereas it remained elevated (305 pg/ml, P = .002) in the nonsurvivors. Thus, in patients with septic shock due to various gram-negative bacteria, other parameters than the absolute serum concentration of immunoreactive TNF contributed significantly to the prediction of outcome.