To understand the alterations in lipid metabolism following burn injury, 29 patients with burns, 18 survivors for the first 15 days and 11 non-survivors until death, were studied for total fatty acid (FA) profiles. No specific dietary fat was given. The plasma total FA profile was determined by capillary gas chromatography. The main observations of this survey were that: arachidonic acid decreased by 55.7 per cent (P < 0.0002), and linoleic acid decreased by 31.6 per cent (P < 0.004), more immunosuppressive mediators were probably produced. The elevated levels of both palmitic (12.1 per cent, P < 0.02) and oleic acid (63.0 per cent increase,P < 0.0001) in the plasma of burned patients suggested increased lipolysis from depot triglycerides. Eicosatrienoic acid showed decreased levels (49.5 per cent decrease, P < 0.005) at 3-4 days. Docosahexaenoic acid reached its lowest level at postburn days 7-9 (32.1 per cent decrease, P < 0.04). The significant changes of FA profile in patients could be related to the increased activity of fat metabolism. The results of this study have revealed the basic FA changes and requirements. Overfeeding and unnecessary intake of the source of immunosuppresive mediators would be avoided.