The aims of this review are to provide a basic introduction to the biology of cytokines and to summarise the results of studies, both laboratory and clinical, relating to the cytokine response to critical illness. Elucidation of the cytokine response to conditions such as sepsis, trauma, and burns may be important for several reasons. It may improve understanding of the pathophysiological processes triggered by these insults. It may allow the severity of the insult to be gauged, and maybe even provide prognostic information about individual patients. Similarly it may allow the effectiveness of resuscitation and further treatment to be monitored. Finally, knowing about the cytokine response may provide the key to developing new treatments.
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