Cytokines are key modulators of inflammatory responses, and play an important role in the defense and repair mechanisms following trauma. After traumatic injury, an immuno-inflammatory response is initiated immediately, and cytokines rapidly appear and function as a regulator of immunity. In pathologic conditions, imbalanced cytokines may provide systemic inflammatory responses or immunosuppression. Expression of perioperative cytokines vary by different intensities of surgical trauma and types of anesthesia and anesthetic agents. Inflammatory cytokines play important roles in postoperative organ dysfunction including central nervous system, cardiovascular, lung, liver, and kidney injury. Inhibition of cytokines could protect against traumatic injury in some circumstances, therefore cytokine inhibitors or antagonists might have the potential for reducing postoperative tissue/organ dysfunction. Cytokines are also involved in wound healing and post-traumatic pain. Application of cytokines for the improvement of surgical wound healing has been reported. Anesthesia-related immune response adjustment might reduce perioperative morbidity because it reduces proinflammatory cytokine expression; however, the overall effects of anesthetics on postoperative immune-inflammatory responses needs to be further investigated.
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