In neurotization procedures, donor nerves—either whole or in part—with relatively pure motor function can be carefully chosen to provide the optimal nearby motor input with as little donor site morbidity as possible. In this context, the ulnar nerve branches to the forearm muscles are relatively dispensable; however, quantitation of and landmarks for these branches are lacking in the literature.
The ulnar branches to the flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) and flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) muscles in 20 upper extremities obtained in adult cadaveric specimens were dissected and quantified.
In the forearm, a mean of four nerve branches led to the FCU and FDP muscles. A mean of 3.4 branches led to the FCU muscle; of these, one to three were medial branches and zero to two were lateral. Medial branches to the FCU muscle originated a mean of 2.7 cm inferior to the medial epicondyle. Lateral branches to the FCU muscle originated at a mean of 3.3 cm inferior to the medial epicondyle. The mean length of the medial branches was 3.2 cm, whereas the mean length of the lateral branches was 3.3 cm. All nerves had a single trunk for the FDP muscle, and in all specimens this branch was located deep to the main ulnar nerve trunk, originating from the ulnar nerve a mean of 2.7 cm inferior to the medial epicondyle. These branches had a mean length of 5.6 cm. The mean diameter of all medial and lateral branches to the FCU muscle was 1 mm, and the mean diameter of the branch to the FDP muscle was 2.1 mm. All branches to both the FCU and FDP muscles arose from the ulnar nerve, over its first approximately 5 cm from the level of the medial epicondyle. Additionally, all branches could be easily lengthened by gentle proximal dissection from the main ulnar nerve.
Ulnar branches to the forearm can be easily localized and used for neurotization procedures. The branch to the FDP muscle had the greatest diameter and longest length, easily reaching the median nerve and posterior interosseous nerve via a transinterosseous membrane tunneling procedure. Furthermore, this branch could be teased away from the main ulnar nerve trunk and made to reach the distal branches of the musculocutaneous nerve in the arm.