To investigate in a Chinese population the occurrence of polymorphisms Bcl I, N363S and ER22/23EK in the glucocorticoid receptor and their association with outcome of trauma. In all, 266 healthy volunteers and 95 victims of major trauma were recruited. The presence of glucocorticoid receptor polymorphisms (ER22/23EK, N363S and Bcl I) was sought by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The injured group were monitored as to respiratory, renal, hepatic, cardiovascular, haematological and central nervous functions. The association was determined between polymorphisms and the development of multiple organ dysfunction syndrome and sepsis after trauma. Only the Bcl I polymorphism was identified. The frequency of its G allele was 23.5% among volunteers and 26.3% among casualties. There were no significant differences in MOD score or sepsis rate between participants classified according to genotype. Only the Bcl I polymorphism of the glucocorticoid receptor gene is common in the Chinese Han population; it may not influence the development of complications following major trauma.