Hepcidin, a recently discovered antimicrobial peptide synthesized in the liver, was identified to be the key mediator of iron metabolism and distribution. Despite our knowledge of hepcidin increased in recent years, there are only limited data on hepcidin regulation during systemic inflammatory response in human subjects. In a prospective study, the time course of plasma hepcidin was analyzed in relations to six inflammatory parameters - plasma cytokines and acute-phase proteins in patients undergoing uncomplicated pulmonary endarterectomy. Twenty-four patients (males, aged 52.6+/-10.2 years, treated with pulmonary endarterectomy in a deep hypothermic circulatory arrest) were enrolled into study. Hepcidin, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, C-reactive protein, alpha(1)-antitrypsin and ceruloplasmin arterial concentrations were measured before surgery and repeatedly within 120 h post-operatively. Hemodynamic parameters, hematocrit and markers of iron metabolism were followed up. In a postoperative period, hepcidin increased from preoperative level 8.9 ng/ml (6.2-10.7) (median and interquartile range) to maximum 16.4 ng/ml (14.1-18.7) measured 72 h after the end of surgery. Maximum post-operative concentrations of hepcidin correlated positively with maximum IL-6 levels. Both hepcidin and IL-6 maximum concentrations correlated positively with extracorporeal circulation time. In conclusions, the study demonstrated that plasma hepcidin is a positive acute-phase reactant in relation to an uncomplicated large cardiac surgery. Hepcidin increase was related to IL-6 concentrations and to the duration of surgical procedure. Our clinical findings are in conformity with recent experimental studies defining hepcidin as a type II acute-phase protein.