Acute renal failure (ARF) is a common complication in intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Although there are several reports on outcome of septic patients with ARF, there are no data regarding predisposing factors for ARF. Therefore, the incidence of ARF was investigated in 185 sepsis patients admitted in a surgical ICU during a 16-mo period. Variables predisposing to ARF on day 1 of sepsis were evaluated with univariate and multivariable analyses. APACHE II and SOFA scores were compared during a 14-d period. Additionally, the impact of organ failure on mortality was evaluated. ARF developed in 16.2% of the patients, and 70.0% of these needed renal replacement therapy (RRT). Patients with ARF were more severely ill and had a higher mortality. Remarkably, serum creatinine was already increased on day 1. Creatinine > 1 mg/dl and pH < 7.30, both on day 1 of sepsis, were independently associated with ARF. Age, need for vasoactive therapy, mechanical ventilation, and RRT, but not ARF itself, were associated with mortality. In conclusion, ARF was a frequent complication in sepsis. Sepsis patients with ARF were more severely ill and had a higher mortality. Need for RRT was independently associated with mortality. A simple risk model for ARF, on basis of two readily available parameters on day 1 of sepsis, was developed. This model allows initiating specific therapeutic measures earlier in the course of sepsis, hopefully resulting in a lower incidence of ARF and needi for RRT, thereby lowering mortality.