To evaluate the predictive value of protein C as a marker of severity in patients with diffuse peritonitis and abdominal sepsis, protein C levels were repeatedly determined and compared with serum levels of antithrombin III, plasminogen, alpha(2)-antiplasmin, Plasminogen activator inhibitor, D-dimer, C1-inhibitor, high molecular weight kininogen, and the C5a, C5b-9 fragments of the complement system. We carried out a prospective study from 44 patients with severe peritonitis confirmed by laparotomy and 15 patients undergoing elective ventral hernia repair who acted as controls. Analyzed biochemical parameters were determined before operations and on days 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, and 14 after operations. For the study group, preoperative average protein C level was significantly lower in the patients who developed septic shock in the late course of the disease, with lethal outcome, than in the patients with severe peritonitis and sepsis who survived (p = 0.0001). In non-survivors, protein C activity remained decreased below 70%, whereas the course of survivors was characterized by increased values that were significantly higher (p < 0.03) at every time point than in those patients who died. Protein C was of excellent predictive value and achieved a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 87.5% in discriminating survivors from non-survivors within the first 48 hours of the study (AUC-0.917; p < 0.001), with a "cut-off" level of 66.0%. As for the control group, throughout the study period, protein C activity was permanently maintained within the range of normal, with significant differences with reference to the study group (p < 0.01). These results suggest that protein C represents a sensitive and early marker for the prediction of severe septic complications during diffuse peritonitis, and of outcome.