Interleukin-6 in the injured patient. Marker of injury or mediator of inflammation?

Ann Surg. 1996 Nov;224(5):647-64. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199611000-00009.


Objective: The effects of interleukin (IL)-6 in the injured patient are examined in an attempt to clarify the potential pathophysiologic role of IL-6 in the response to injury.

Summary background data: Interleukin-6 is an integral cytokine mediator of the acute phase response to injury and infection. However, prolonged and excessive elevations of circulating IL-6 levels in patients after trauma, burns, and elective surgery have been associated with complications and mortality. The mechanistic role of IL-6 in mediating these effects is unclear.

Methods: A review of current literature is performed to summarize the origins, mechanisms of action, and biologic effects of IL-6 and to characterize the IL-6 response to injury.

Results: Interleukin-6 is a multifunctional cytokine expressed by a variety of cells after a multitude of stimuli, under complex regulatory control mechanisms. The IL-6 response to injury is uniquely consistent and related to the magnitude of the insult. Moreover, the early postinjury IL-6 response correlates with complications as well as mortality.

Conclusions: Interleukin-6 appears to play an active role in the postinjury immune response, making it an attractive therapeutic target in attempts to control hyperinflammatory provoked organ injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Burns / immunology
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin / physiology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Signal Transduction
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
  • Wounds and Injuries / immunology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality


  • Antigens, CD
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6