This article represents the first attempt to perform a pooled analysis about remote ischaemic preconditioning (RIPC) in reduction of acute kidney injury (AKI) of adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). A systematic search was performed using PubMed (1966–5 January 2016), the Cochrane Library (1996–5 January 2016), the Web of Science (1986–5 January 2016) and Chinese database (SinoMed) (1978–5 January 2016) to identify studies that have described the effect of RIPC on AKI in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery with CPB. The outcomes used for this analysis included the incidence of AKI and the need for renal replacement therapy (RRT). Thirteen randomized controlled trials (4370 participants) were included in this analysis. RIPC significantly reduced the risk of AKI (risk ratio, 0.81; 95% confidence interval, [0.66, 0.99]; P = 0.04; I2 = 46%) for adult patients compared with control group. However, there was no significant difference with respect to the incidence of RRT between the two groups. The present meta-analysis found that RIPC may reduce the incidence of AKI among adult patients following cardiac surgery with CPB. Adequately powered trials are warranted to provide further corroboration of our findings in the future.