There is a paucity of information in the neurosurgical literature regarding the surgical anatomy surrounding the posterior interosseous nerve (PIN). The goal of the current study was to provide easily recognizable superficial bone landmarks for identification of the PIN.
Thirty-four cadaveric upper extremities obtained from adults were subjected to dissection of the PINs, and measurements were made between this nerve and surrounding superficial bone landmarks.
In all specimens the main radial trunk was found to branch into its superficial branch and PIN at the level of the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. Proximally, the PIN was best identified following dissection between the brachioradialis and extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis muscles. At its exit site from the supinator muscle, the PIN was best identified after retraction between the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis and extensor digitorum communis muscles. This site was a mean distance of 6 cm distal to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. No compression of the PIN by the tendon of origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle was seen. One specimen was found to have a proximally split PIN that provided a previously undefined articular branch to the elbow joint. The mean diameter of the PIN proximal to the supinator muscle was 4.5 mm. The leash of Henry crossed the PIN in all but one specimen and was found at a mean distance of 5 cm inferior to the lateral epicondyle. The PIN exited the distal edge of the supinator muscle at a mean distance of 12 cm distal to the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. Here the mean diameter of the PIN was 4 mm. The exit site from the distal edge of the supinator was found to be at a mean distance of 18 cm proximal to the styloid process of the ulna. This exit site for the PIN was best identified following dissection between the extensor carpi radialis longus and brevis and extensor digitorum communis muscles. The distal articular branch of the PIN was found to have a mean length of 13 cm and the proximal portion of this terminal segment was located at a mean distance of 7.5 cm proximal to the Lister tubercle.
The addition of more anatomical landmarks can help the neurosurgeon to be more precise in identifying the PIN and in avoiding complications during surgery in this region.