Although many failed surrogate markers are provided in the literature, inflammation may contribute to the outcome of ischemic stroke. In 50 consecutive patients with acute ischemic stroke, in the absence of symptoms and signs of concomitant infection, we evaluated a panel of biomarkers reported to be variably associated with brain ischemia, and correlate their serum level with the brain lesion volume and clinical outcome. Infarct size was calculated on computed tomography (CT) scans by means of the Cavalieri's method. Neurological impairment was scored by using the Glasgow Coma Scale, Glasgow Outcome Scale and National Institutes of Health (NIH) scales at stroke onset and 3-month follow-up. Some markers showed a direct significant correlation with both initial and final NIH scale and with infarct size, particularly tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) (P=0.002), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (P<0.01) and matrix metalloproteinase-2/9 (P=0.001). In contrast to previous reports, interleukin-6 (IL-6) serum level showed a significant inverse correlation with both final neurological impairment and infarct size (P<0.001). This novel finding allows us suggesting that IL-6, in the context of a complex pro-inflammatory network occurring during stroke, is associated with neuroprotection rather than neurotoxicity in patients with ischemic brain injury.