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Admission serum bilirubin levels have been incorporated into severity of illness scoring systems in critical illness as a marker of liver dysfunction. The purpose of our study is to determine the independent association of serum bilirubin with mortality in severe sepsis and septic shock.We conducted a retrospective study of adult patients admitted with severe sepsis and septic shock. We excluded patients with a prior history of liver disease. We identified the highest serum bilirubin within 72 hours of admission and stratified bilirubin levels into ≤1 mg/dL (normal), 1.1 to 2 mg/dL (abnormal up to 2 mg/dL), and >2 mg/dL. We sought to determine the independent association of hyperbilirubinemia with mortality and length of intensive care unit stay in persons with severe sepsis and septic shock.A total of 251 patients met criteria for severe sepsis. In all, 200 patients had a bilirubin of <1 mg/dL, and 51 had a bilirubin of >1 mg/dL. Of these 51, 12 had a bilirubin >2 mg/dL. Mortality was 12%, 24%, and 42% in persons with a bilirubin ≤1, 1.1 to 2, and >2 mg/dL, respectively. Compared to those with a bilirubin ≤ 1 mg/dL, adjusted odds of mortality in patients were 3.85 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.21–12.2) and 9.85 (95% CI 1.92–50.5) times higher in persons with bilirubin levels between 1.1 and 2 and >2 mg/dL, respectively.After multivariable adjustment for potential confounding factors, elevated serum bilirubin levels within 72 hours of admission are associated with an increased risk of mortality in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Prospective studies are warranted to further validate our findings.