Cardiovascular events account for half of the deaths related to non-cardiac surgery. Identification of a patient's risk and perioperative management appropriate to that risk is important to optimize the clinical outcome of surgery. Key concepts of preoperative cardiac risk assessment are contained within American and European guidelines. Risk indices stratify patients according to clinical and surgery-specific predictors. The most widely used is the Lee index; however, all have limitations. Patients at intermediate and high risk following risk index stratification and assessment of functional capacity require further non-invasive assessment to detect myocardial ischaemia using, for instance, exercise electrocardiography, myocardial perfusion scintigraphy, or stress echocardiography. It can be difficult, however, to decide which technique and predictor is most effective and local practice differs. Invasive coronary angiography is not recommended unless it would be performed in the absence of surgery. Appropriate pain management should be considered in all patients and beta-blockade may improve the outcome in intermediate- and high-risk patients. Identifying patients with risk factors or previously undiagnosed coronary artery disease enables the preoperative cardiac risk assessment to guide long-term treatment.