© 2015 Informa UK, Ltd. Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is increasingly recognized among febrile hospitalized patients. Clinically, MAS resembles multiorgan dysfunction and shock. Laboratory features include hepatobiliary dysfunction, coagulopathy, pancytopenia, hyperferritinemia and markers of immune activation. Pathologically, hemophagocytosis is commonly seen but is only present in 60% of MAS patients. MAS, or secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), is triggered by infectious (e.g., herpes family viruses), rheumatologic (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus [SLE]) and oncologic (e.g., T-cell leukemia) conditions. Formal HLH criteria, while specific, are frequently insensitive for MAS diagnosis. Thus, disease-specific (e.g., SLE) and generic MAS criteria have been published. Recently, novel criteria for MAS in children with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) were developed and are a key focus of this review.