Cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) induces a systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) by factors such as contact of the blood with the foreign surface of the extracorporeal circuit, hypothermia, reduction of pulmonary blood flow during CPB and endotoxemia. SIRS is maintained in the postoperative phase, co-occurring with a counter anti-inflammatory response syndrome. Research on the effects of drugs administered before the surgery, especially in the induction phase of anesthesia, as well as drugs used during extracorporeal circulation, has revealed that they greatly influence these postoperative inflammatory responses. A better understanding of these processes may not only improve postoperative recovery but also enable tailor-made pharmacotherapy, with both health and economic benefits. In this review, we describe the pathophysiology of SIRS and counter anti-inflammatory response syndrome in the light of CPB in children and the influence of drugs used on these syndromes.