Background Delayed chest closure is an increasingly used approach in the management of bleeding and hemodynamic instability after lung transplantation. We sought to evaluate the impact of delayed chest closure on surgical site infection. Methods We performed a single-center retrospective cohort study and included adult patients who received a lung transplant at our center between January 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014. We defined surgical site infection as a thoracotomy incision wound or pleural space infection. Follow-up was complete through 6 months after transplantation. We used logistic regression models to examine the impact of delayed chest closure on surgical site infection and to identify other potential risk factors. Results During the study period, 67 of the 232 transplant procedures (29%) required delayed chest closure, and surgical site infection developed in 22 recipients (9%). Among the patients with surgical site infection, 18 experienced a wound infection, and 8 experienced a pleural space infection; 4 experienced concomitant wound and pleural space infection. Among the 67 who underwent delayed chest closure, 13 patients (19%) experienced a surgical site infection compared with 9 of the 165 patients (5%) who underwent primary closure (p = 0.001). In multivariate analysis, delayed chest closure was an independent risk factor for surgical site infection. Conclusions Although delayed chest closure may have an important role in the immediate management of recipients of a lung transplant, it is an independent risk factor for surgical site infection, and this is associated with increased morbidity.