Background: We evaluated the effects of tailoring the operative approach on major surgical site complications and outcomes in lung transplant recipients. Patients and Methods: Beginning in July 2013, bilateral lung transplants at a single institution were performed either through sternotomy or clamshell depending on proximity of hilar structures by computed tomography (CT), anticipated complexity, past surgical history, and surgeon experience. Patient demographics and outcomes were collected in the institution's Transplant Information Services (TIS). A major surgical site complication was defined as a sterile or infected incision requiring operative intervention. Results: One hundred six bilateral lung transplants (68 via clamshell and 38 via median sternotomy) were performed between July 2013 and June 2016. Median sternotomy patients were older (mean age 55 vs. 50 y, p = 0.04), and less likely to have cystic fibrosis (5 [13%] vs. 19 [28%], p = 0.21) or diabetes (5 [13%] vs. 26 [38%], p = 0.01). There was no statistically significant difference in mean lung allocation score (LAS) (45 vs. 48, p = 0.39) and body mass index (BMI; kg/m2; 25.3 vs. 24.4, p = 0.29) between the sternotomy and clamshell group. Fifteen (14.2%) patients experienced a total of 25 surgical site complications (19 major and 6 minor). No sternotomy patient had a major surgical site complication and 11 (16.2%) clamshell patients had a major surgical site complication (p = 0.01). Of these 11 patients, 5 (45%) required multiple operative revisions related to the surgical site. Freedom from major surgical site complications at three years was 100% for sternotomy patients and 80% for clamshell patients (p = 0.017). Conclusions: Tailoring the operative approach can reduce surgical site complications in lung transplant patients by avoiding a clamshell whenever feasible.