An estimated total of 1,288,496 primary posterior lumbar spine fusion procedures were performed in the US between 1998 and 2008. The average mortality rate for lumbar spine fusion surgery was 0.2 %. Independent risk factors for in-hospital mortality included advanced age, male gender, large hospital size, and emergency admission. Comorbidities associated with the highest in-hospital mortality after lumbar spine fusion surgery were coagulopathy, metastatic cancer, congestive heart failure and renal disease. Most lethal complications were cerebrovascular events, sepsis and pulmonary embolism. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the timing of death occurred relatively early in the in-hospital period with over half of fatalities occurring by postoperative day 9.