Patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) show a profound acute-phase response. Because interleukin-6 (IL-6) is an important mediator of these pathophysiological changes, IL-6 levels were monitored in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum of 20 patients with severe isolated TBI. All patients received indwelling ventricular catheters for intracranial pressure monitoring and for release of CSF when intracranial pressure exceeded 15 mmHg. CSF and blood samples were drawn daily for up to 14 days. The CSF/serum albumin ratio (QA) served as a parameter of blood brain barrier dysfunction. Differential blood counts as well as the acute-phase proteins C-reactive protein, α1-antitrypsin, and fibrinogen were recorded. IL-6 was detected in all CSF samples and reached values of up to 31,000 pg/mL, while serum levels remained significantly lower (α ≤ .01) and never exceeded 1,100 pg/mL during the entire study period. A correlation between CSF and serum IL-6 was found initially after the trauma and corresponded to a severe dysfunction of the blood brain barrier (r = .637, p = .001). Maximum IL-6 concentrations in serum correlated with peak levels of acute-phase proteins (C-reactive protein, α1 -antitrypsin, and fibrinogen). With regard to blood cell count, an initial leukocytosis combined with a borderline lymphocytopenia was observed. Thrombocytes decreased to a subnormal level during the first few days, but reached supranormal numbers by the end of the study period. Our results show that the increase of IL-6 levels in CSF and serum is followed by a profound acute-phase response in patients with TBI. Because cytokine concentrations are significantly lower in serum compared with CSF, we hypothesize that IL-6 produced in the central nervous system may play a role in initiating the acute-phase response.