Introduction Infectious complications are the main causes of postoperative morbidity. The early timing of their promoting factors is the rationale for perioperative strategies attempting to reduce them. Our aim was to determine the effects of perioperative haemodynamic goal-directed therapy on postoperative infection rates. Methods We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis. MEDLINE, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library and the DARE databases were searched up to March 2011. Randomised, controlled trials of major surgery in adult patients managed with perioperative goal-directed therapy or according to routine haemodynamic practice were included. Primary outcome measure was specific type of infection. Results Twenty-six randomised, controlled trials with a combined total of 4,188 participants met our inclusion criteria. Perioperative goal-directed therapy significantly reduced surgical site infections (pooled OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.74; P < 0.0001), pneumonia (pooled OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.92; P = 0.009), and urinary tract infections (pooled OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.84; P = 0.02). A significant benefit was found regarding total infectious episodes (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.58; P < 0.00001). Conclusions Flow-directed haemodynamic therapy designed to optimise oxygen delivery protects surgical patients against postoperative hospital-acquired infections and must be strongly encouraged, particularly in the high-risk surgical population.