BACKGROUND: Major burn injury induces an inflammatory response that is accompanied by the release of various cytokines. We investigated the gradual changes in the levels of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines following burn injury and determined the relationship between these levels and burn size in adult Korean patients with burn injury. METHODS: Blood samples from 9 healthy controls and 60 Korean burn patients were collected on days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 21 after burn injury, and concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) were measured. Burn patients were divided into 3 groups according to burn size (15-30%, 31-50%, >50% total body surface area), and the concentrations of the cytokines were compared between these groups and the control group over 3 weeks. RESULTS: Compared to their levels in controls, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, TNF-alpha, and G-CSF levels in burn patients were significantly higher during the observation period. Median concentrations of IL-8, IL-10, and G-CSF at each time point increased with burn size, although peak levels and time to peak levels of these cytokines differed from patient to patient. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, TNF-alpha, and G-CSF are important mediators in inflammatory changes after burn injury; however, various factors, including burn size, may influence the concentrations of these cytokines.