BACKGROUND Surgical site infections (SSIs) increase morbidity and mortality rates and generate additional cost for the healthcare system. Pre-operative blood transfusion and the subcutaneous fat thickness (SFT) have been described as risk factors for SSI in other surgical areas. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of pre-operative blood transfusion and the SFT on the occurrence of SSI in posterior thoracic spine surgery. METHODS In total, 244 patients (median age 55 y; 97 female) who underwent posterior thoracic spine fusions from 2008 to 2012 were reviewed retrospectively. Patient-specific characteristics, pre-operative hemoglobin concentration/hematocrit values, the amount of blood transfused, and the occurrence of a post-operative SSI were documented. The SFT was measured on pre-operative computed tomography scans. RESULTS Surgical site infection was observed in 26 patients (11%). The SFT was 13 mm in patients without SSI and 14 mm in those with infection (p=0.195). The odds ratio for patients with pre-operative blood transfusion to present with SSI was 3.1 (confidence interval [CI] 1.4-7.2) and 2.7 (CI 1.1-6.4) when adjusted for age. There was no difference between the groups with regard to pre-operative hemoglobin concentration (p=0.519) or hematocrit (p=0.908). The SFT did not differ in the two groups. CONCLUSIONS Allogeneic red blood cell transfusion within 48 h prior to surgery was an independent risk factor for SSI after posterior fusion for the fixation of thoracic spine instabilities. Pre-operative blood transfusion tripled the risk, whereas SFT had no influence on the occurrence of SSI.