INTRODUCTION: Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) is an established treatment in the neutropenic host. Usage in head-injured patients at risk for infection may aggravate brain damage. In contrast, evidence of G-CSF neuroprotective effects has been reported in rodent models of focal cerebral ischemia. We investigated effects of G-CSF in acute focal traumatic brain injury (TBI) in rats. METHODS: Thirty-six male Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized with 1.2%) to 2.0% isoflurane and subjected to controlled cortical impact injury (CCII). Thirty minutes following CCII, either vehicle or G-CSF was administered intravenously. Animals were sacrificed 24 hours following CCII. Glutamate concentrations were determined in cisternal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Brain edema was assessed gravimetrically. Contusion size was estimated by 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining and volumetric analysis. RESULTS: Dose-dependent leukocytosis was induced by infusion of G-CSF. Physiological variables were unaffected. Water content of the traumatized hemisphere and CSF glutamate concentrations were unchanged by treatment. Contusion volume was similar in all groups. CONCLUSIONS: A single injection of G-CSF did not influence cortical contusion volume, brain edema, or glutamate concentrations in CSF determined 24 hours following CCII in rats. G-CSF, administered 30 minutes following experimental TBI, failed to exert neuroprotective effects.