Risk-adjusted mortality has been proposed as a quality of care indicator to gauge cardiovascular intensive care Unit (CICU) performance. Mortality is easily measured, readily understandable, and a meaningful outcome for the patient, provider, administrative agencies, and other key stakeholders. Disease-specific risk-adjusted mortality is commonly used in cardiovascular medicine as an indicator of care quality, for external accreditation, and to determine payer reimbursement. However, the evidence base for overall risk-adjusted mortality in the CICU is limited, with most available data coming from the general critical care literature. In addition, existing risk-adjusted mortality models vary considerably in terms of approach and composition, and there is no nationally recognized standard. Thus, the objective of this study was to review the use of risk-adjusted mortality as a measure of overall unit performance and quality of care in the CICU. We found a considerable variability in the risk-adjustment methodology for cardiovascular disease. Although predictive models for disease-specific risk-adjusted mortality in cardiovascular disease have been developed, there are limited published data on overall risk-adjusted mortality for the CICU. Without standardization of risk-adjustment methodology, researchers are often required to use existing risk-adjustment models developed in noncardiac patient populations. Further studies are needed to establish whether risk-adjusted overall CICU mortality is a valid performance measure and whether it reflects care quality.