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This article attempts to describe the identification of high-risk characteristics of the critical care patient population that lends itself to the development of multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. A review of the literature describes the overall pathophysiology of the syndrome and the identification of a patient's risk or predisposition. Those risk factors described are age, preexisting chronic illness, malnutrition, cancer, severe trauma, and sepsis. Although the studies are not conclusive, the awareness of potential predisposing factors is discussed for purposes of early recognition of symptomatology and prioritizing critical care beds when bed availability is lacking. Future studies are warranted to trend predisposing factors as well, and a discussion of developing computerized technology to incorporate predisposing factors to correlate severity of illness is presented.