BACKGROUND : Symptoms at suspicion of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) are often nonspecific and several biomarkers have been evaluated for their discriminative power to both diagnose and predict the course from NEC suspicion to complicated disease requiring surgical intervention. Thus, we aimed to assess the utility of interleukin-6 (IL-6) to predict surgical intervention in infants suffering from NEC and, furthermore, to discriminate infants with starting NEC or late-onset sepsis (LOS). METHODS : IL-6 serum levels at disease onset were retrospectively analyzed in 24 infants suffering from NEC as well as 16 neonates with LOS. RESULTS : IL-6 serum levels at disease onset were significantly higher in infants suffering from NEC necessitating surgical intervention in the disease course compared to infants with medical NEC (5000 [785-5000] vs. 370 [78-4716] pg/ml, p = 0.0008) as well as gram-positive LOS (5000 [785-5000] vs. 84 [12-269] pg/ml, p = 0.0001). Infants suffering from gram-negative LOS exhibited elevated IL-6 serum levels at disease onset comparable to infants with surgical NEC (5000 [1919-5000] vs. 5000 [785-5000] pg/ml, p = 1.00). CONCLUSIONS : The proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 appears to be a promising marker to distinguish surgical NEC from medical NEC at the onset of disease but cannot discriminate between surgical NEC and gram-negative LOS. METHODS : II.