The current mainstream view of organ failure induced by sepsis revolves around inflammation and loss of vascular control. However, there has been a resurgence in interest in bioenergetic failure due to mitochondrial dysfunction. This concept is not new--studies date back 30 years; however, the data have been highly conflicting with findings of either decreased, increased or unchanged mitochondrial activity and/or nucleotide levels. These studies are virtually all based on non-human cells, isolated perfused organs or in vivo animal models that have received a variety of insults ranging from mild to severe, and monitored for different durations ranging from minutes to weeks. As a generalization, there does appear to be depression of mitochondrial function with longer-duration models of greater severity. This is confirmed by the scanty human data currently available. This chapter provides an overview, and attempts to relate the biochemical changes to the clinical condition. The potential roles of nitric oxide, intracellular calcium and reactive oxygen species are highlighted.

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