Cadaveric Study of the Articular Branches of the Shoulder Joint

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Abstract

Background and Objectives

This cadaveric study investigated the anatomic relationships of the articular branches of the suprascapular (SN), axillary (AN), and lateral pectoral nerves (LPN), which are potential targets for shoulder analgesia.

Methods

Sixteen embalmed cadavers and 1 unembalmed cadaver, including 33 shoulders total, were dissected. Following dissections, fluoroscopic images were taken to propose an anatomical landmark to be used in shoulder articular branch blockade.

Results

Thirty-three shoulders from 17 total cadavers were studied. In a series of 16 shoulders, 16 (100%) of 16 had an intact SN branch innervating the posterior head of the humerus and shoulder capsule. Suprascapular sensory branches coursed laterally from the spinoglenoid notch then toward the glenohumeral joint capsule posteriorly. Axillary nerve articular branches innervated the posterolateral head of the humerus and shoulder capsule in the same 16 (100%) of 16 shoulders. The AN gave branches ascending circumferentially from the quadrangular space to the posterolateral humerus, deep to the deltoid, and inserting at the inferior portion of the posterior joint capsule. In 4 previously dissected and 17 distinct shoulders, intact LPNs could be identified in 14 (67%) of 21 specimens. Of these, 12 (86%) of 14 had articular branches innervating the anterior shoulder joint, and 14 (100%) of 14 LPN articular branches were adjacent to acromial branches of the thoracoacromial blood vessels over the superior aspect of the coracoid process.

Conclusions

Articular branches from the SN, AN, and LPN were identified. Articular branches of the SN and AN insert into the capsule overlying the glenohumeral joint posteriorly. Articular branches of the LPN exist and innervate a portion of the anterior shoulder joint.

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