To determine the role of plasma tissue factor on disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) in trauma and septic patients, and also to investigate the relationships between tissue factor and various thrombin markers, we made a prospective cohort study. Forty trauma patients and 20 patients with sepsis were classified into subgroups according to the complication of DIC. Plasma tissue factor antigen concentration (tissue factor), prothrombin fragment F1+2 (PF1+2), thrombin antithrombin complex (TAT), fibrinopeptide A (FPA), and D-dimer were measured on the day of admission (day 0), and on days 1, 2, 3, and 4 after admission. The levels of plasma tissue factor in the DIC group were more elevated than those of the non-DIC group in both the trauma and the septic patients. In patients with sepsis, tissue factor levels on days 0 through 4 in the non-DIC group showed markedly higher values than those in the control patients (135 +/- 8 pg/ml). Significant correlations between tissue factor and PF1+2, TAT, FPA, and D-dimer were observed in the DIC patients, however, no such correlations were found in the non-DIC patients. These results suggest that elevated plasma tissue factor in patients with trauma and sepsis gives rise to thrombin generation, followed by intravascular coagulation.