This clinical trial, which was composed of 1,031 adults undergoing cardiac operations, compared the efficacy of a single dose of 1 g of ceftriaxone with a 48-hour regimen consisting of flucloxacillin and gentamicin. There was no significant difference (p = 0.89) in the overall incidence of major infections: 30 of 515 patients (5.8%; 95% confidence interval, 5.4% to 6.2%) taking ceftriaxone and 29 of 516 patients (5.6%; 95% confidence interval, 5.2% to 6.0%) taking flucloxacillin and gentamicin. Subgroup analyses, with a lower statistical power, failed to show a significant difference between patients who received ceftriaxone and those who received flucloxacillin/gentamicin: major sternal wound infections arose in 2.7% of the patients taking ceftriaxone versus 1.6% in those on the 48-hour regimen (p = 0.20) and major limb wound infections arose in 4.2% and 5.4%, respectively (p = 0.44). Single-dose prophylaxis was associated with fewer intravenous administrations (864 doses versus 9,570 doses) and cost less (A$17,248 versus A$78,510). Although the regimen that included gentamicin was associated with the greatest biochemical impairment of renal function, the overall toxicity for both groups was low. We conclude that a single dose of ceftriaxone provided cost-efficient prophylaxis for adults undergoing cardiac operations when compared with a 48-hour regimen of gentamicin and flucloxacillin. The general principle revealed by our data is that the short-term administration of an appropriate antibiotic regimen represents optimal prophylaxis for patients undergoing cardiac procedures.