Critical illness has an important impact on the human endocrine system. Very few studies have been performed to elucidate the alterations of the GH/IGF-I axis in acutely ill children. The aim of this study was to investigate several parameters of this axis in children with trauma (TRA) and sepsis (SEP) requiring admission to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). A total of 16 children, ten with TRA and six with SEP (age 1-10 years) as well as 18 healthy children (CS) of similar age and gender were included in the study. Two children, one with TRA and one with SEP, died. Serum IGF-I and -II, IGFBP-1 and -3, and GH levels were measured on days 1, 3 and 7 after admission. GH levels were higher in the patients than in CS (p = 0.04), with no difference between TRA and SEP, and were elevated during PICU stay (p = 0.05). Serum IGF-I, -II and IGFBP-3 were lower in the patients than in CS (p = 0.03, 0.02 and 0.001, respectively) with a tendency to increase up to day 7. Finally, IGFBP-1 levels were similar in the patients and CS. These findings indicate that critically ill children are characterized by low levels of IGF-I and -II as well as IGFBP-3 accompanied by elevated levels of GH, probably reflecting the development of peripheral GH resistance. No significant differences were found between the different catabolic conditions, sepsis and trauma.