Upper Extremity Innervation Patterns and Clinical Implications for Nerve and Tendon Transfer

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The authors previously studied the intramuscular innervation of 150 upper limb muscles and demonstrated that certain patterns of intramuscular innervation allowed muscles to be split into compartments with independent function. This study aims to determine the location, extramuscular course, and number of motor nerve branches of upper limb peripheral nerves. The authors want to combine this information with their previous work to create a blueprint of upper limb neuromuscular anatomy that would be useful in reconstructive surgery.


Ten fresh frozen cadaveric upper limbs were dissected. The origin of branches from the peripheral nerve trunk, their course, and the number of motor nerves per muscle were determined. The authors reviewed all the images of the Sihler-stained muscles from their earlier study.


Motor nerve branches arise at the intersection of nerve trunk and muscle belly and are clustered near the origin of muscle groups. Two patterns of extramuscular innervation were noted, with one group having a single motor nerve and another group with consistently more than one motor nerve. A modified classification of muscles was proposed based on the orientation of muscle fibers to the long axis of the limb, the number of muscle compartments, and the number of heads of origin or the tendons of insertion.


Motor nerve clusters can be located based on fixed anatomical landmarks. Muscles with multiple motor nerves have morphology that allows them to be split into individual compartments. The authors created a muscle and nerve blueprint that helps in planning nerve and split muscle transfers.

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