Blood samples from 32 patients with severe Traumatic brain injury (TBI) were studied and compared with 11 cardiac surgery patients, and 29 healthy controls. A dramatic decreased expression of HLA class I molecules on monocytes was associated with increased KIR+ NK cell frequency in TBI patients. Overall, the phenotype of TBI NK cells marked by KIR and CD57 expression and lower level of NKp46 and DNAM-1 reflected a differentiated state. The NK-cell response to missing self was marked by lower degranulation and lower IFN-γ production after stimulation with HLA class I deficient cell line. In contrast, the NK-cell ADCC was not altered. IL-12 was able to restore both IFN-γ production and the cytotoxicity capacities of NK cells. This study provides the first extensive description of the phenotype and functions of NK cells in TBI patients. Further evaluation of IL-12 treatment to overcome immunosuppression-induced nosocomial infections is warranted.