OBJECTIVES To report the results of 13 years worth of epidemiologic surveillance of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) following heart surgery and the main interventions applied in order to reduce VAP incidence. METHODS This is a retrospective and descriptive study of active epidemiologic surveillance of VAP. National diagnostic criteria were used. Interventions associated with a decrease in VAlP incidence in adults who underwent heart surgery are described. RESULTS A significant and sustained reduction was observed in the rate of VAP; being 56.7 per 1,000 ventilator-days in 1998 vs 4.7 per 1,000 ventilator-days in 2010 (p < 0.001). The strongest reduction was observed following 2003 (34.4 to 14.8 per 1,000 ventilator-days in 2004, p < 0.001). The interventions with greatest impact were the implementation of an early-weaning protocol, the introduction of trained nurses to perform the mechanical ventilator equipment management and the routine use of alcohol-based hand rubs. CONCLUSION Epidemiologic surveillance associated with the establishment of a multifactorial intervention program applied in collaboration with the attending team, have demonstrated a significant reduction of VAP incidence after heart surgery.