Mannan-binding lectin (MBL) is a central component of the innate immune system. Here we investigated the role of MBL in surgical patients during the peri-operative phase. Basal and post-operative (days 1–3 post-surgery) serum samples were obtained prospectively from 156 patients undergoing major elective gastrointestinal surgery for malignant disease. In contrast to procalcitonin (a typical acute-phase protein), there was no significant difference in serum MBL between pre- and post-operative samples (P=0.62). Nevertheless, patients who developed post-operative infections showed significantly lower pre- and post-operative MBL levels than those who did not (P=0.013 and P=0.005, respectively). There was no significant difference in pre-operative procalcitonin between the two groups (P=0.56). We conclude (i) that serum MBL levels did not respond immediately to surgical trauma, and (ii) that lower MBL levels were associated with an increased occurrence of post-operative infections. Studies on larger patient groups are necessary, however, to assess the value of MBL measurements in identifying patients at risk of post-operative complications.

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