BACKGROUND: Current data suggest that mortality after noncardiac surgery may be associated with persistent hypotension and the cumulative duration of low processed electroencephalogram-based bispectral index (BIS). This study assessed the relationships among cumulative duration of low BIS (BIS < 45), intermediate-term mortality, and anesthetic dose after cardiac surgery. METHODS: The authors studied 460 patients (mean age, 63.0 ± 13.1 yr; 287 men) who underwent cardiac surgery between September 2005 and October 2006 at Washington University Medical Center, St Louis, Missouri. By using multivariable Cox regression analysis, perioperative factors were evaluated for their potential association with intermediate-term all-cause mortality. RESULTS: A total of 82 patients (17.8%) died during a median follow-up of 3 yr (interquartile range, 2.7-3.3 yr). Comparing patients who died with those who survived, there was no statistically significant difference in the relationship between end-tidal anesthetic gas concentrations during the anesthetic maintenance phase and the BIS. Cumulative duration of low BIS was independently associated with intermediate-term mortality. The 1.29 adjusted hazard ratio (95% CI, 1.12-1.49) for intermediate-term mortality with cumulative duration of low BIS translated into a 29% increased risk of death for every cumulative hour spent with a BIS less than 45. The final multivariable Cox regression model showed a good discriminative ability (c-index of 0.78). CONCLUSIONS: This study found an association between cumulative duration of low BIS and mortality in the setting of cardiac surgery. Notably, this association was independent of both volatile anesthetic concentration and duration of anesthesia, suggesting that intermediate-term mortality after cardiac surgery was not causally related to excessive anesthetic dose.