Abstract Background. We studied the expression of chemotactic, opsonic, and adherent receptors on the membranes of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) from surgical patients because modulation of these receptors has been suggested in the control of critical PMN functions that directly or indirectly influence patient outcome. Methods. Healthy subjects who had PMN adherence, chemotaxis, and receptor measurements were compared with preoperative surgical patients and those who were within 48 hours of an admission to an intensive care unit (surgical intensive care unit) because of an acute illness. Results. The following receptor/cell pattern was found in control subjects, preoperative patients, and patients in the surgical intensive care unit, respectively: formyl peptide (13,000 vs 18,000 vs 22,000), CR3 (59,000 vs 105,000 vs 121,000), fibronectin (21,000 vs 20,000 vs 35,000), FcIIγ (9,000 vs 20,000 vs 25,000), C5a (347 vs 265 vs 250 mean channel number), and FcIIIR (64,000 vs 75,000 vs 26,000). This receptor pattern was partly correlated directly or indirectly with the acute-phase response, neutrophil adherence, and PMN chemotaxis from these subjects. Conclusions. The data suggest that there are alterations in the expression and modulation of PMN surface membrane receptors in patients with a “stable” disease process compared with those with an acute illness, which may affect critical PMN functions needed to combat bacterial infections.