Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an inflammatory cytokine that exerts protective effects during myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury. We hypothesized that elevated MIF levels in the early postoperative time course might be inversely associated with postoperative organ dysfunction as assessed by the simplified acute physiology score (SAPS) II and sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score in patients after cardiac surgery. A total of 52 cardiac surgical patients (mean age [± SD] 67 ± 10 years; EuroScore: 7) were enrolled in this monocenter, prospective observational study. Serum levels of MIF and clinical data were obtained after induction of anesthesia, at admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), 4 h after admission and at the first and second postoperative day. To characterize the magnitude of MIF release, we compared blood levels of samples from cardiac surgical patients with those obtained from healthy volunteers. We assessed patient outcomes using the SAPS II at postoperative d 1 and SOFA score for the first 3 d of the eventual ICU stay. Compared to healthy volunteers, patients had already exhibited elevated MIF levels prior to surgery (64 ± 50 versus 13 ± 17 ng/mL; p < 0.05). At admission to the ICU, MIF levels reached peak values (107 ± 95 ng/mL; p < 0.01 versus baseline) that decreased throughout the observation period and had already reached preoperative values 4 h later. Postoperative MIF values were inversely correlated with SAPS II and SOFA scores during the early postoperative stay. Moreover, MIF values on postoperative d 1 were related to the calculated cardiac power index (r = 0.420, p < 0.05). Elevated postoperative MIF levels are inversely correlated with organ dysfunction in patients after cardiac surgery.