Sepsis is the manifestation of the immune and inflammatory response to infection that may ultimately result in multi organ failure. Despite the therapeutic strategies that have been used up to now, sepsis and septic shock remain a leading cause of death in critically ill patients. Myocardial dysfunction is a well-described complication of severe sepsis, also referred to as septic cardiomyopathy, which may progress to right and left ventricular pump failure. Many substances and mechanisms seem to be involved in myocardial dysfunction in sepsis, including toxins, cytokines, nitric oxide, complement activation, apoptosis and energy metabolic derangements. Nevertheless, the precise underlying molecular mechanisms as well as their significance in the pathogenesis of septic cardiomyopathy remain incompletely understood. A well-investigated abnormality in septic cardiomyopathy is mitochondrial dysfunction, which likely contributes to cardiac dysfunction by causing myocardial energy depletion. A number of mechanisms have been proposed to cause mitochondrial dysfunction in septic cardiomyopathy, although it remains controversially discussed whether some mechanisms impair mitochondrial function or serve to restore mitochondrial function. The purpose of this review is to discuss mitochondrial mechanisms that may causally contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction and/or may represent adaptive responses to mitochondrial dysfunction in septic cardiomyopathy.
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