Although studies have indicated that the levels of catecholamines increase during sepsis, it remains unknown whether the elevated levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine observed in early sepsis are sustained during late, hypodynamic stages of sepsis. In this study, rats were subjected to sepsis by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP, i.e., polymicrobial sepsis). Immediately after CLP or sham operation, animals received 3 mL/100 g body weight normal saline subcutaneously. At .5, 2, 10 (i.e., early sepsis), or 20 h (late sepsis) after CLP, blood samples were drawn and the plasma was separated. Plasma levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine were determined using a [3H]-radioenzymatic assay. The results indicate that plasma levels of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine increased significantly as early as .5 h after CLP. The increase in catecholamine levels persisted throughout the study periods. Thus, circulating levels of catecholamines were elevated in both early and late stages of polymicrobial sepsis. These results suggest that the increased catecholamine levels at .5-10 h after CLP may contribute to the hypermetabolic conditions that occur during early, hyperdynamic sepsis. However, there is a lack of an association between the elevated plasma catecholamine levels and hypometabolic/ hypodynamic state in late sepsis. © 1995 The Shock Society.