In 2007 The Netherlands Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Thoraxchirurgie, NVT) instituted the Adult Cardiac Surgery Database. The dataset comprises demographic factors, type of intervention, in-hospital mortality and 18 risk factors for mortality after cardiac surgery, according to the European System for Cardiac Operative Risk Evaluation definitions. Currently, this procedural database contains over 60 000 interventions. Completeness of data is excellent and national coverage of all 16 Dutch cardio-thoracic surgery centres has been achieved since the start. The primary goal of the database is to control and maintain the quality of care by evaluation of outcomes. This is accomplished by regular feedback and comparison of outcomes. For a subset of the database (procedures from 10 out of 16 centres) longer-term follow-up has been established by means of data linkage to two national registries. This provides information on survival status, causes of death and readmissions. The database has recently been used for research, resulting in methodological papers aimed at optimizing comparison of outcomes. In future, clinical issues will also be addressed, for example survival after coronary artery bypass grafting and valve surgery.