Hospitals and payers use economic profiling to evaluate physician and surgeon performance. However, there is significant variation in the data sources and analytic methods that are used. We used information from a hospital's cardiac surgery and cost accounting information systems to create surgeon economic profiles. Three scenarios were examined: (1) surgeon modeled as fixed effect with no patient-mix adjustment; (2) surgeon modeled as fixed effect with patient-mix adjustment; (3) and surgeon modeled as random effect with patient-mix adjustment. We included 574 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery at Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK between July 1, 1995 and April 30, 1996. We found that profiles reporting unadjusted average surgeon costs may incorrectly identify high- and low-cost outliers. Adjusting for patient-mix differences and treating surgeons as random effects was the preferred approach. These results demonstrate the need for hospitals to reexamine their economic profiling methods.