Surgical site infection (SSI) after vascular surgery is a serious complication increasing morbidity, mortality, and costs for healthcare systems. A 4-year retrospective cohort study was performed in a university hospital with patients who had undergone arterial vascular surgery below the aortic arch. Investigated variables included demographics and clinical data. Forty-four of 756 patients experienced SSI, 29 of which were superficial, five were deep, and 10 had organ/space infections. Coagulase-negative staphylococci (22%), enterococci (20%), and Staphylococcus aureus (18%) were the most common pathogens. Independent risk factors for SSIs were femoral grafting [odds ratio (OR) 6·7], peripheral atherosclerotic disease, Fontaine stages III–IV (OR 4·1), postoperative drainage >5 days (OR 3·6), immunosuppression (OR 2·8), duration of operation >214 min (OR 2·8), and body mass index >29 (OR 2·6). The application of perioperative antibiotic prophylaxis was an independent protective factor (OR 0·2). Patients with certain risk factors for SSIs warrant special attention for infection prevention.