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The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of halothane vs. isoflurane on cytokine production during minor elective surgery. Forty adult patients, ASA I-II were randomly allocated to receive halothane or isoflurane. Venous samples for interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-2, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) were taken before anaesthesia, before incision, at the end of anaesthesia and 24 h postoperatively. In both groups, IL-6 and TNF-α levels remained low throughout the study period. Before incision, in both groups IL-1β and IFN-γ showed a decrease (p < 0.01 for IL-1β in isoflurane group and p < 0.05 for the others) compared with pre-induction. By the end of anaesthesia and surgery, IL-1β had increased significantly (p < 0.05) and IFN-γ had decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in both groups compared with pre-incisional levels. By 24 h postoperatively in both groups, IL-1β had decreased significantly (p < 0.05), whereas IFN-γ had increased significantly (p < 0.05) compared with the end of anaesthesia and surgery level. Preincisionally, IL-2 increased in the halothane group (p < 0.01), whereas it decreased significantly in the isoflurane group (p < 0.001) compared with the pre-induction level. By the end of anaesthesia and surgery and by 24 h postoperatively, IL-2 had decreased significantly in the halothane group (p < 0.001), whereas it increased significantly in the isoflurane group (p < 0.001) compared with preincision and end of anaesthesia and surgery levels, respectively.