Reported wound infection rates for infrainguinal bypass operations range from 17% to 44%, but there is limited appreciation of which characteristics of patients or operations are reliable markers of increased wound infection risk. The purpose of the present study was to analyze all wound infections observed after infrainguinal bypass operations during 20 years of practice in a large teaching institution. Independent risk factors for wound infection development were identified. During the 20-year period ending 31 December, 1997, 978 male patients underwent infrainguinal bypass operations at the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Wound infections complicated the recovery of 129 of these patients during a 30-day postoperative surveillance interval. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to test the association between wound infection occurrence and putative risk factors that were either features of patients or characteristics of the operations. The following variables were examined: obesity, prosthetic graft placement, diabetes mellitus, steroid use, anticoagulation use, length of preoperative hospital stay, development of incisional hematoma, duration of operation, and the preoperative presence of a non-healing wound in the extremity being revascularized. The overall wound infection rate was 13.2% (129/978). In a final logistic regression model, obesity was a significant and independent predictor of wound infection (Relative Risk 2.6, 95% confidence interval, 1.35-4.90), as was development of a post-operative incisional hematoma (Relative Risk 6.44, 95% confidence interval, 2.95-14.08). No other explanatory variable was significantly associated with wound infection development.