Cardiac surgery presents particular challenges for the anesthesiologist. In addition to standard and advanced monitors typically used during cardiac surgery, anesthesiologists may consider monitoring the brain with raw or processed electroencephalography (EEG). There is strong evidence that a protocol incorporating the processed EEG bispectral index (BIS) decreases the incidence intraoperative awareness in comparison with standard practice. However, there is conflicting evidence that incorporating the BIS into cardiac anesthesia practice improves "fast-tracking," decreases anesthetic drug use, or detects cerebral ischemia. Recent research, including many cardiac surgical patients, shows that a protocol based on BIS monitoring is not superior to a protocol based on end-tidal anesthetic concentration monitoring in preventing awareness. There has been a resurgence of interest in the anesthesia literature in limited montage EEG monitoring, including nonproprietary processed indices. This has been accompanied by research showing that with structured training, anesthesiologists can glean useful information from the raw EEG trace. In this review, we discuss both the hypothesized benefits and limitations of BIS and frontal channel EEG monitoring in the cardiac surgical population.