•We studied 29 patients with multiple-organ failure (MOF) who underwent exploratory laparotomy because of suspected intra-abdominal sepsis. The purpose was to identify predictors of continuing abdominal sepsis and to assess outcome of operation in these severely ill patients. The strongest predictor of continuing intra-abdominal sepsis was development of unexplained single-organ failure, which occurred in 17 patients. Physical findings were not a totally reliable indicator of abdominal sepsis since only 15 of 29 patients had acute abdominal findings. The main clue to sepsis in patients with-out acute abdominal findings was worsening organ failure. Fifteen of 29 patients died of continuing MOF. Only one patient older than 50 years survived. We suggest that earlier operation is indicated in certain patients with organ failure. Particularly aggressive operative therapy seems justified in young patients with unexplained single-organ failure or worsening MOF.
(Arch Surg 1983;118:1130-1133)