A retrospective case control analysis of 48 cases of postoperative infection following spinal procedures. Spinal procedures that became infected after surgery were analyzed to identify the significance of preoperative and intraoperative risk factors. Characterization of the nature and timing of the infections was also performed. The rate of postoperative infection following spinal surgery varies widely depending on the nature of the procedure and the patient's diagnosis. Preoperative comorbidities and risk factors also influence the likelihood of infection. A review of 1629 procedures performed on 1095 patients revealed that a postoperative infection developed in 48 patients (4.4%). Data regarding preoperative and intraoperative risk factors were gathered from patient charts for these and a randomly selected control group of 95 uninfected patients. For analysis, these patient groups were further divided into adult and pediatric subgroups, with an age cutoff of 18 years. Preoperative risk factors reviewed included smoking, diabetes, previous surgery, previous infection, steroid use, body mass index, and alcohol abuse. Intraoperative factors reviewed included staging of procedures, estimated blood loss, operating time, and use of allograft or instrumentation. The majority of infections occurred during the early postoperative period (less than 3 months). Age >60 years, smoking, diabetes, previous surgical infection, increased body mass index, and alcohol abuse were statistically significant preoperative risk factors. The most likely procedure to be complicated by an infection was a combined anterior/posterior spinal fusion performed in a staged manner under separate anesthesia. Infections were primarily monomicrobial, although 5 patients had more than 4 organisms identified. The most common organism cultured from the wounds was Staphylococcus aureus. All patients were treated with surgical irrigation and débridement, and appropriate antibiotics to treat the cultured organism. Aggressive treatment of patients undergoing complex or prolonged spinal procedures is essential to prevent and treat infections. Understanding a patient's preoperative risk factors may help the physician to optimize a patient's preoperative condition. Additionally, awareness of critical intraoperative parameters will help to optimize surgical treatment. It may be appropriate to increase the duration of prophylactic antibiotics or implement other measures to decrease the incidence of infection for high risk patients.