Cerebral contusions contain numerous leukocytes, and a temporal relationship exists among cerebral chemokine expression, leukocyte recruitment, and contusion enlargement. This would suggest a role for chemokines in contusion development. However, it has not been established if serum concentrations of chemokines such as interleukin-8 (IL-8) or monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) change with contusion enlargement. Eighteen adult patients with severe contusional traumatic brain injury, on computerized tomography, were identified. Patients with diffuse injuries or extradural and subdural hematomas associated with mass effect were not included in the study. Daily serum samples were taken for the measurement of IL-8 and MCP-1 concentrations for up to 11 days postinjury. In the patients who died while in intensive care, IL-8 and MCP-1 were significantly greater than in those patients discharged (18 [0-202] vs. 0 [0-156] pg/mL and 498 [339-1,063] vs. 368 [86-11,289] pg/mL for IL-8 and MCP-1, respectively). No difference was seen in serum chemokine levels in patients who deteriorated with contusion enlargement compared with those that did not. The IL-8 and MCP-1 concentrations did not change significantly over time either in the group as a whole or in the subgroup of patients who deteriorated. These inflammatory mediators may be predictive of a poor outcome in patients with traumatic brain injury in which contusions are the predominant abnormality. However, they do not distinguish those patients who will deteriorate because of contusion enlargement.