Triceps and cutaneous radial nerve branches investigated via an axillary anterior arm approach: new findings in a fresh-cadaver anatomical study

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  • 1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Governador Celso Ramos Hospital, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil;
  • | 2 Department of Plastic Surgery, Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences, New Marine Lines, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India;
  • | 3 Department of Plastic Surgery, Wockhardt Hospital, The Umrao IMSR, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; and
  • | 4 Department of Anatomy, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolisz, Santa Catarina, Brazil
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OBJECTIVE

The authors sought to describe the anatomy of the radial nerve and its branches when exposed through an axillary anterior arm approach.

METHODS

Bilateral upper limbs of 10 fresh cadavers were dissected after dyed latex was injected into the axillary artery.

RESULTS

Via the anterior arm approach, all triceps muscle heads could be dissected and individualized. The radial nerve overlaid the latissimus dorsi tendon, bounded by the axillar artery on its superior surface, then passed around the humerus, together with the lower lateral arm and posterior antebrachial cutaneous nerve, between the lateral and medial heads of the triceps. No triceps motor branch accompanied the radial nerve’s trajectory. Over the latissimus dorsi tendon, an antero-inferior bundle, containing all radial nerve branches to the triceps, was consistently observed. In the majority of the dissections, a single branch to the long head and dual innervations for the lateral and medial heads were observed. The triceps long and proximal lateral head branches entered the triceps muscle close to the latissimus dorsi tendon. The second branch to the lateral head stemmed from the triceps lower head motor branch. The triceps medial head was innervated by the upper medial head motor branch, which followed the ulnar nerve to enter the medial head on its anterior surface. The distal branch to the triceps medial head also originated near the distal border of the latissimus dorsi tendon. After a short trajectory, a branch went out that penetrated the medial head on its posterior surface. The triceps lower medial head motor branch ended in the anconeus muscle, after traveling inside the triceps medial head. The lower lateral arm and posterior antebrachial cutaneous nerve followed the radial nerve within the torsion canal. The lower lateral brachial cutaneous nerve innervated the skin over the biceps, while the posterior antebrachial cutaneous nerve innervated the skin over the lateral epicondyle and posterior surface of the forearm. The average numbers of myelinated fibers were 926 in the long and 439 in the upper lateral head and 658 in the upper and 1137 in the lower medial head motor branches.

CONCLUSIONS

The new understanding of radial nerve anatomy delineated in this study should aid surgeons during reconstructive surgery to treat upper-limb paralysis.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplemental Fig. 1 (PDF 5,504 KB)

Illustration from Serrato-Avila (pp 1410–1423). Copyright Johns Hopkins University, Art as Applied to Medicine. Published with permission.

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