Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) are the main proinflammatory cytokines responsible for the inflammatory process and cartilage destruction of inflammatory arthropathies. The present study sequentially measured the concentrations of these cytokines and their proportions of detectable levels in the synovial fluid (SF) of 23 patients with non-gonococcal (GC) septic arthritis before and after treatment. Persistently high concentrations and proportions of IL-6 and TNF-alpha were found up to day 7 of treatment, while SF IL-1beta concentration declined significantly after day 7 (p = 0.036). SF IL-1beta and TNF-alpha correlated with each other significantly and with SF WBC counts (p < 0.01). Positive correlations between SF IL-1beta concentration and joint effusion (p < 0.01) and between SF TNF-alpha concentration and joint tenderness (p < 0.001) were observed. SF IL-1beta and TNF-alpha were significantly higher in patients with local complications of septic arthritis. In conclusion, high levels of IL-1beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha were detected in SF of patients with non-GC septic arthritis. Only IL-1beta decreased significantly after day 7 of treatment, but IL-6 and TNF-alpha concentrations were persistently high. SF IL-1beta and TNF-alpha may be useful in predicting the outcome and complications of patients with this disease.