This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of continuing versus stopping aspirin [acetylsalicylic acid (ASA)] preoperatively in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL/Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (CCTR), ClinicalTrials.gov, Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO), Literatura Latino Americana em Ciências da Saúde (LILACS), Google Scholar and reference lists of relevant articles were searched for randomized controlled trials that reported efficacy outcomes of myocardial infarction and mortality, and safety outcomes of blood loss, packed red blood cell transfusion and surgical re-exploration were compared between groups. Fourteen studies fulfilled our eligibility criteria and included a total of 4499 patients (2329 for ‘continuing ASA’ and 2170 for ‘stopping ASA’). In the pooled analysis, continuing aspirin therapy did not reduce the risk of myocardial infarction [risk ratio 0.834, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.688–1.010; P = 0.063] or operative mortality (risk ratio 1.384, 95% CI 0.727–2.636; P = 0.323). Preoperative ASA increased postoperative chest tube drainage (mean difference 143 ml, 95% CI 39–248 ml; P = 0.007) and packed red blood cell transfusion (mean difference 142 ml, 95% CI 55–228; P = 0.001) but did not increase the risk of surgical re-exploration (risk ratio 1.316, 95% CI 0.910–1.905; P = 0.145). This meta-analysis found no statistically significant difference regarding the risk of operative mortality and myocardial infarction between the ‘continuing ASA’ and ‘stopping ASA’ strategies. On the other hand, the mean volume of blood loss and packed red blood cell transfusion was higher in the ‘continuing ASA’ group, but this finding did not translate into higher risk of reoperation for bleeding.