[en] Sex hormones have important interactions with the immune system and modulate the inflammatory response. In this regard, oestrogen inhibits the transcription of proinflammatory cytokines and confers tissue protection in experimental models. On the basis of this evidence, Trotter et al. in this issue of Critical Care addressed the question of whether, in children, female sex would protect against the deleterious effects of cardiac operations with cardiopulmonary bypass by providing a favourable anti-inflammatory cytokine balance. The observations made in that study suggest sex-related immunomodulation and organ protection during cardiac surgery in the paediatric population. Prospective trials conducted in large series, including sex hormone determination in neonates, infants and children with congenital cardiac defects, are necessary to test this hypothesis. The verification of sex-related intraoperative organ protection would provide new opportunities for preventing the uncontrolled systemic inflammatory response that may occur during cardiac surgery.