Objective Infection is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Therapeutic practices have evolved over the past 15 years, but effects on infectious complications of SLE are unknown. We evaluated trends in hospitalizations for severe and opportunistic infections in a population-based SLE study. Methods Data derive from the 2000 to 2011 United States National Inpatient Sample, including individuals who met a validated administrative definition of SLE. Primary outcomes were diagnoses of bacteremia, pneumonia, opportunistic fungal infection, herpes zoster, cytomegalovirus, or pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). We used Poisson regression to determine whether infection rates were changing in SLE hospitalizations and used predictive marginals to generate annual adjusted rates of specific infections. Results We identified 361,337 SLE hospitalizations from 2000 to 2011 meeting study inclusion criteria. Compared to non-SLE hospitalizations, SLE patients were younger (51 vs. 62 years), predominantly female (89% vs. 54%), and more likely to be racial/ethnic minorities. SLE diagnosis was significantly associated with all measured severe and opportunistic infections. From 2000 to 2011, adjusted SLE hospitalization rates for herpes zoster increased more than non-SLE rates: 54 to 79 per 10,000 SLE hospitalizations compared with 24 to 29 per 10,000 non-SLE hospitalizations. Conversely, SLE hospitalizations for PCP disproportionately decreased: 5.1 to 2.5 per 10,000 SLE hospitalizations compared with 0.9 to 1.3 per 10,000 non-SLE hospitalizations. Conclusions Among patients with SLE, herpes zoster hospitalizations are rising while PCP hospitalizations are declining. These trends likely reflect evolving SLE treatment strategies. Further research is needed to identify patients at greatest risk for infectious complications. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.