Approximately 20% of patients with acute pancreatitis develop a severe disease associated with complications and high risk of mortality. The purpose of this study is to review pathogenesis and prognostic factors of severe acute pancreatitis (SAP). An extensive medline search was undertaken with focusing on pathogenesis, complications and prognostic evaluation of SAP. Cytokines and other inflammatory markers play a major role in the pathogenesis and course of SAP and can be used as prognostic markers in its early phase. Other markers such as simple prognostic scores have been found to be as effective as multifactorial scoring systems (MFSS) at 48 h with the advantage of simplicity, efficacy, low cost, accuracy and early prediction of SAP. Recently, several laboratory markers including hematocrit, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and serum amyloid A (SAA) have been used as early predictors of severity within the first 24 h. The last few years have witnessed a tremendous progress in understanding the pathogenesis and predicting the outcome of SAP. In this review we classified the prognostic markers into predictors of severity, pancreatic necrosis (PN), infected PN (IPN) and mortality.