Abstract Background and objectives Data on urine output have not been routinely presented to define cardiac surgery-related acute kidney injury (AKI). We evaluated the incidence of AKI after cardiac surgery based on the AKIN and KDIGO criteria (considering serum creatinine concentration and urine output in the first 72 hours postoperatively) and compared the performance of the 2 criteria for AKI staging. Methods This was a prospective cohort study of adult patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), valve replacement, or CABG + valve replacement between October 2017 and April 2018 at a single institution. Patients were excluded if baseline creatinine concentration (measured within 7 days before surgery) was ≥ 2.5 mg.dL-1. Patients were evaluated for the development of AKI based on changes in urine output and serum creatinine concentration, measured daily from postoperative day 1 to 7, according to the AKIN and KDIGO criteria, which were then compared. Results A total of 198 patients were included. AKI occurred in 83.8% by AKIN and in 82.8% by KDIGO, when using both urine output and serum creatinine concentration as defining criteria. Using serum creatinine concentration alone, the incidence of AKI fell to 27.3% by AKIN and to 24.7% by KDIGO. A kappa coefficient of 0.98 was obtained between the AKIN and KDIGO criteria. Conclusions Almost perfect agreement was found between AKIN and KDIGO. AKI may be underdiagnosed after cardiac surgery if serum creatinine concentration is used as the only defining criterion. Our findings underscore the fundamental importance of using the urine output criterion in the assessment of patients at risk for AKI.