As a preliminary study to elucidate the relationship of endotoxemia to postoperative morbidity, the plasma endotoxin levels in 64 surgical neonates were quantitated by the chromogenic limulus test (Toxicolor test; Seikagaku Kogyo, Tokyo, Japan). The preoperative levels of plasma endotoxin were 64 +/- 59 pg/mL in the group of infants with perforated peritonitis (n = 9), 63 +/- 51 pg/mL in the group of infants with gastroschisis (n = 7), and 15 +/- 16 pg/mL in the group of infants with ileus (n = 28), while the mean level was 6 +/- 5 pg/mL in the remaining 20 surgical neonates who had no signs of ileus or peritonitis. In the serial determination of plasma endotoxin in 28 neonates, the levels on the first postoperative day increased significantly compared with the preoperative levels (16 +/- 18 pg/mL to 46 +/- 25 pg/mL, P less than .01). They decreased gradually to 8 +/- 5 pg/mL within a week in 15 neonates who had no postoperative complications. However, in 13 neonates who had postoperative complications such as wound infection or postoperative ileus, the postoperative levels of plasma endotoxin increased to a much higher level and remained there. In this article the relationship of clinical endotoxemia to postoperative thrombocytopenia and hyperbilirubinemia is analyzed, and the usefulness of evaluating endotoxemia in surgical neonates is discussed.