The incidence of cardiac arrest in the intensive care unit (ICU-CA) has not been widely reported. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies reporting the incidence of cardiac arrest in adult, general intensive care units. The review was prospectively registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017079717). The search identified 7550 records, which included 20 relevant studies for qualitative analysis and 16 of these were included for quantitative analyses. The reported incidence of ICU-CA was 22.7 per 1000 admissions (95% CI: 17.4-29.6) with survival to hospital discharge of 17% (95% CI: 9.5-28.5%). We estimate that at least 5446 patients in the UK have a cardiac arrest after ICU admission. There are limited data and significant variation in the incidence of ICU-CA and efforts to synthesise these are limited by inconsistent reporting. Further prospective studies with standardised process and incidence measures are required to define this important patient group.