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Disease Markers
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 5271203, 10 pages
Research Article

Growth Differentiation Factor-15 Is a Predictor of Mortality in Critically Ill Patients with Sepsis

1Department of Medicine III, RWTH-University Hospital Aachen, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany
2Medical Care Center, Dr. Stein and Colleagues, 41061 Mönchengladbach, Germany

Correspondence should be addressed to Lukas Buendgens

Received 8 May 2017; Accepted 31 July 2017; Published 18 October 2017

Academic Editor: Silvia Angeletti

Copyright © 2017 Lukas Buendgens et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15) is a member of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily related to inflammation and macrophage activation. Serum concentrations of GDF-15 can predict poor survival in chronic diseases, but its role in sepsis is obscure. Therefore, we investigated GDF-15 as a prognostic biomarker in critically ill patients. We measured GDF-15 levels in 219 critically ill patients (146 with sepsis, 73 without sepsis) upon admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), in comparison to 66 healthy controls. GDF-15 levels were significantly increased in ICU patients compared to controls. GDF-15 was further increased in sepsis and showed a strong association with organ dysfunction (kidney, liver and lactate) and disease severity (APACHE II and SOFA score). High GDF-15 concentrations at admission independently predicted ICU (HR 3.42; 95% CI 1.33–8.78) and overall mortality (HR 2.02, 95% CI 1.02–3.88) in all ICU critically ill patients as well as in a large subgroup of sepsis patients (ICU mortality: HR 3.16; 95% CI 1.10–9.07; overall mortality: HR 2.62; 95% CI 1.14–6.02). Collectively, serum GDF-15 levels are significantly increased in critically ill patients, associated with sepsis, organ failure, and disease severity. High GDF-15 levels at ICU admission predict short- and long-term mortality risk.