To clarify the indications and effectiveness of surgical decompression for scapulothoracic bursitis, 16 patients were evaluated, who during a 5-year period, had surgical treatment of refractory pain and snapping in the scapulothoracic region. Twelve women and four men with a mean age of 41 years had one of five methods of surgical decompression of the scapulothoracic articulation. Six patients had an open resection of the scapulothoracic bursa with excision of the superomedial portion of the scapula, two had this procedure using an arthroscopic method, and six had a combined approach with arthroscopic scapulothoracic bursectomy and open resection of the superomedial scapula through a small incision. One patient had an arthroscopic and one an open scapulothoracic bursectomy only. At final followup of an average of 36 months (range, 24-69 months), 81% of patients reported satisfaction with the procedure and indicated they would have it again based on the relief they obtained from pain. The Simple Shoulder Test was 9.8 (range, 2-12). Although there was no statistical difference in the success using any given technique, we thought that the combined open and arthroscopic approach was the most effective, and surgical treatment is an acceptable method for treatment of refractory painful scapulothoracic bursitis.