Crohn's disease is characterized by a chronic inflammation of the intestine of unknown aetiology. One of the main problems when treating patients with Crohn's disease, is the identification of patients undergoing early clinical relapse, for timely treatment and the possible prevention of complications. No sub-clinical markers are currently available that predict relapse during remission. Several parameters have been proposed for this purpose. Although none have proven useful, growing evidence suggests a possible benefit in the clinical management of Crohn's disease. Among these, we may identify: clinical behaviour, the characteristics of the host, clinical activity, markers of intestinal inflammation and markers of immune activation. In particular, the possible relationship between cytokine pattern and the clinical behaviour of Crohn's disease has been addressed. Overall, these observations suggest that mucosal immune activation is a feature of Crohn's disease, and may persist in the form of activated immunocompetent cells during remission. On the basis of this evidence, studies are currently investigating whether the down-regulation of immune activation markers is associated with clinical remission in Crohn's disease. It has been shown that higher mucosal levels of TNF-α and an increased state of activation of lamina propria mononuclear cells in patients with inactive Crohn's disease, are significantly associated with an earlier clinical relapse of the disease. These observations suggest that a persistent local immune activation during remission may represent a marker of early clinical relapse of Crohn's disease.