The systemic inflammatory response of the body to invading microorganisms, called sepsis, leads to profound activation of the complement (C3 and C4) system. The present study was conducted to compare the use of serum C3 and C4 levels with C-reactive protein (CRP) and thrombocyte and leukocyte counts in differentiating patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) from those with sepsis. Over a 6-mo period, all patients with SIRS or sepsis who stayed in the intensive care unit for > 24 h were enrolled in the study. At admission, each patient's clinical status was recorded, and blood was taken for laboratory analysis (complete blood count, CRP, C3, and C4). A total of 58 patients with SIRS and 41 patients with sepsis were admitted to the study. The mean +/- SD thrombocyte count was found to be significantly lower in septic patients (179,975 +/- 95,615) than in those with SIRS (243,165 +/- 123,706) (P=.005); no difference in plasma concentrations of CRP and levels of C3 and C4 was noted between groups. The thrombocyte count was determined to be the most reliable parameter for differentiating between SIRS and sepsis (highest area under the curve=0.656).