The evidence from animal sepsis models that hemofiltration may ameliorate the hemodynamic changes that occur in septic shock has led to speculation that continuous renal replacement therapy may have nonrenal benefits in septic patients. Much of the subsequent work has been done to elucidate the mechanisms of this benefit, in particular the role of removal of inflammatory mediators including cytokines and complement. The significance of extracorporeal removal of such products is dependent on the relative importance of endogenous production and clearance in the setting of sepsis and multiple organ failure and on the method of blood purification. This article reviews the evidence thus far, consisting of in vitro, animal, and human studies; a range of mediators (TNFalpha, IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, complement factors C3a, C5a, and D); various membranes (polyacrylonitrile, polysulfone, and polyamide); and clearance by diffusion, convection, and adsorption. The most consistent results suggest that the plasma levels of some mediators are lowered by a combination of membrane adsorption and convection, the clinical significance of which is still uncertain. The review shows the need for further work to unravel the role of CRRT in treating septic patients.