Abstract Background While early extubation after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) has been associated with resource savings, its effect on patient outcomes remains unclear. The goal of the present investigation was to evaluate whether early extubation can be performed safely in elderly CABG patients in community practice. Methods We studied 6,446 CABG patients, aged 65 years and older, treated at 35 hospitals between 1995 and 1998. Patients were categorized based on their post-CABG extubation duration (early, < 6 hours; intermediate, 6 to < 12 hours; and late, 12 to 24 hours). We compared unadjusted and risk-adjusted mortality, reintubation rates, and post-CABG length of stay (pLOS). We also examined the association between patients' intubation time and outcomes among patients with similar propensity for early extubation and among high-risk patient subgroups. Results The overall mean post-CABG intubation time was 9.8 (SD 5.7) hours with 29% of patients extubated within 6 hours. After adjusting for preoperative risk factors patients extubated in less than 6 hours had significantly shorter postoperative hospital stays than those with later extubation times. Patients extubated early also tended to have equal or better risk-adjusted mortality than those with intermediate (odds ratio: 1.69, p = 0.08) or long intubation times (odds ratio: 1.97, p = 0.02). These results were consistent among patients with similar preoperative propensity for early extubation and among important high-risk patient subgroups. There was no evidence for higher reintubation rates among elderly patients selected for early extubation. Conclusions In community practice, early extubation after CABG can be achieved safely in selected elderly patients. This practice was associated with shorter hospital stays without adverse impact on postoperative outcomes.