B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels predict cardiovascular risk in several settings. We hypothesised that they would identify individuals at increased risk of complications and mortality following major emergency non-cardiac surgery. Forty patients were studied with a primary end-point of a new postoperative cardiac event, and/or development of significant ECG changes, and/or cardiac death. The main secondary outcome was all-cause mortality at 6 months. Pre-operative BNP levels were higher in 11 patients who suffered a new postoperative cardiac event (p = 0.001) and predicted this outcome with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.85 (CI = 0.72-0.98, p = 0.001). A pre-operative BNP value > 170 pg x ml(-1) has a sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 79% for the primary end-point. In this small study, pre-operative BNP levels identify patients undergoing major emergency non-cardiac surgery who are at increased risk of early postoperative cardiac events. Larger studies are required to confirm these data.