Sixteen cases of bacterial infection of subcutaneous bursae were reviewed. Septic subcutaneous bursitis usually occurred following injury to the skin overlying the bursa. Two cases developed after bursal corticosteroid injection for treatment of aseptic bursitis. Bursal fluid culture yielded staphlococci in 14 cases and streptococci in 2. Blood cultures obtained in 8 patients were negative. No patient had clinical manifestations suggestive of bacteremia. Needle and/or incisional drainage of the bursa plus systemic antibiotics led to uneventful recovery in 14 patients. Two patients had chronic drainage. One resolved spontaneously and the other required bursectomy.