Background The left atrial size has been considered as a useful marker of adverse cardiovascular outcomes. However, it is not well known whether left atrial area index (LAAI) has predictive value for prognosis in patients with unstable angina pectoris (UAP). This study was aimed to assess the association between LAAI and outcomes in UAP patients. Methods We enrolled a total of 391 in-hospital patients diagnosed as UAP. Clinical and echocardiographic data at baseline were collected. The patients were followed for the development of adverse cardiovascular (CV) events, including hospital readmission for angina pectoris, acute myocardial infarction (AMI), congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke and all-cause mortality. Results During a mean follow-up time of 26.3 ± 8.6 months, 98 adverse CV events occurred (84 hospital readmission for angina pectoris, four AMI, four CHF, one stroke and five all-cause mortality). In a multivariate Cox model, LAAI [OR: 1.140, 95% CI: 1.016–1.279, P = 0.026], diastolic blood pressure (OR: 0.976, 95% CI: 0.956–0.996, P = 0.020) and pulse pressure (OR: 1.020, 95% CI: 1.007–1.034, P = 0.004) were independent predictors for adverse CV events in UAP patients. Conclusions LAAI is a predictor of adverse CV events independent of clinical and other echocardiographic parameters in UAP patients.