Anterior Divisions (Rami Anteriores)
The anterior divisions of the spinal nerves supply the antero-lateral parts of the trunk, and the limbs; they are for the most part larger than the posterior divisions. In the thoracic region they run independently of one another, but in the cervical, lumbar, and sacral regions they unite near their origins to form plexuses. The Cervical Nerves (Nn. Cervicales) The anterior divisions of the cervical nerves (rami anteriores), with the exception of the first, pass outward between the Intertransversarii anterior and posterior, lying on the grooved upper surfaces of the transverse processes of the vertebræ. The anterior division of the first or suboccipital nerve issues from the vertebral canal above the posterior arch of the atlas and runs forward around the lateral aspect of its superior articular process, medial to the vertebral artery. In most cases it descends medial to and in front of the Rectus capitis lateralis, but occasionally it pierces the muscle. The anterior divisions of the upper four cervical nerves unite to form the cervical plexus, and each receives a gray ramus communicans from the superior cervical ganglion of the sympathetic trunk. Those of the lower four cervical, together with the greater part of the first thoracic, form the brachial plexus. They each receive a gray ramus communicans, those for the fifth and sixth being derived from the middle, and those for the seventh and eighth from the lowest, cervical ganglion of the sympathetic trunk. The Cervical Plexus (plexus cervicalis)(Fig. 90804).
The cervical plexus is formed by the anterior divisions of the upper four cervical nerves; each nerve, except the first, divides into an upper and a lower branch, and the branches unite to form three loops. The plexus is situated oppostie the upper four cervical vertebræ, in front of the Levator scapulæ and Scalenus medius, and covered by the Sternocleidomastoideus. Its branches are divided into two groups, superficial and deep, and are here given in tabular form; the figures following the names indicate the nerves from which the different branches take origin:
Smaller occipital 2,
C.Great auricular 2, 3,
C.Cutaneous cervical 2, 3,
C.Supraclavicular 3, 4, C.
With hypoglossal 1, 2, C.
With vagus 1, 2, C.
1, 2, 3, 4, C.
MuscularRectus capitis lateralis 1,
C.Rectus capitis anterior 1, 2,
C.Longus capitis 1, 2, 3, C.
Communicantes cervicales..2, 3,
C.Phrenic 3, 4, 5, C.
Communicating with accessory 2, 3, 4, C.
C.Trapezius 3, 4, C.
Levator scapulæ 3, 4, C.
Scalenus medius 3, 4, C.
Superficial Branches of the Cervical Plexus (Fig. 90805).
The Smaller Occipital Nerve (n. occipitalïs minor; small occipital nerve) arises from the second cervical nerve, sometimes also from the third; it curves around and ascends along the posterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus. Near the cranium it perforates the deep fascia, and is continued upward along the side of the head behind the auricula, supplying the skin and communicating with the greater occipital, the great auricular, and the posterior auricular branch of the facial. The smaller occipital varies in size, and is sometimes duplicated.
FIG. 90804 Plan of the cervical plexus. (Gerrish.)
It gives off an auricular branch, which supplies the skin of the upper and back part of the auricula, communicating with the mastoid branch of the great auricular. This branch is occasionally derived from the greater occipital nerve. The Great Auricular Nerve (n. auricularis magnus) is the largest of the ascending branches. It arises from the second and third cervical nerves, winds around the posterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus, and, after perforating the deep fascia, ascends upon that muscle beneath the Platysma to the parotid gland, where it divides into an anterior and a posterior branch. The anterior branch (ramus anterior; facial branch) is distributed to the skin of the face over the parotid gland, and communicates in the substance of the gland with the facial nerve.
FIG. 90805 The nerves of the scalp, face, and side of neck.
The posterior branch (ramus posterior; mastoid branch) supplies the skin over the mastoid process and on the back of the auricula, except at its upper part; a filament pierces the auricula to reach its lateral surface, where it is distributed to the lobule and lower part of the concha. The posterior branch communicates with the smaller occipital, the auricular branch of the vagus, and the posterior auricular branch of the facial. The Cutaneous Cervical (n. cutaneus colli; superficial or transverse cervical nerve) arises from the second and third cervical nerves, turns around the posterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus about its middle, and, passing obliquely forward beneath the external jugular vein to the anterior border of the muscle, it perforates the deep cervical fascia, and divides beneath the Platysma into ascending and descending branches, which are distributed to the antero-lateral parts of the neck. The ascending branches (rami superiores) pass upward to the submaxillary region, and form a plexus with the cervical branch of the facial nerve beneath the Platysma; others pierce that muscle, and are distributed to the skin of the upper and front part of the neck. The descending branches (rami inferiores) pierce the Platysma, and are distributed to the skin of the side and front of the neck, as low as the sternum. The Supraclavicular Nerves (nn. supraclaviculares; descending branches) arise from the third and fourth cervical nerves; they emerge beneath the posterior border of the Sternocleidomastoideus, and descend in the posterior triangle of the neck beneath the Platysma and deep cervical fascia. Near the clavicle they perforate the fascia and Platysma to become cutaneous, and are arranged, according to their position, into three groupsanterior, middle and posterior. The anterior supraclavicular nerves (nn. supraclaviculares anteriores; suprasternal nerves) cross obliquely over the external jugular vein and the clavicular and sternal heads of the Sternocleidomastoideus, and supply the skin as far as the middle line. They furnish one or two filaments to the sternoclavicular joint. The middle supraclavicular nerves (nn. supraclaviculares medii; supraclavicular nerves) cross the clavicle, and supply the skin over the Pectoralis major and Deltoideus, communicating with the cutaneous branches of the upper intercostal nerves. The posterior supraclavicular nerves (nn. supraclaviculares posteriores; supra-acromial nerves) pass obliquely across the outer surface of the Trapezius and the acromion, and supply the skin of the upper and posterior parts of the shoulder. Deep Branches of the Cervical Plexus. INTERNAL SERIES.The Communicating Branches consist of several filaments, which pass from the loop between the first and second cervical nerves to the vagus, hypoglossal, and sympathetic. The branch to the hypoglossal ultimately leaves that nerve as a series of branches, viz., the descending ramus, the nerve to the Thyreohyoideus and the nerve, to the Geniohyoideus (see page 916). A communicating branch also passes from the fourth to the fifth cervical, while each of the first four cervical nerves receives a gray ramus communicans from the superior cervical ganglion of the sympathetic. Muscular Branches supply the Longus capitis, Rectus capitis anterior, and Rectus capitis lateralis. The Communicantes Cervicales (communicantes hypoglossi)(Fig. 90804) consist usually of two filaments, one derived from the second, and the other from the third cervical. These filaments join to form the descendens cervicalis, which passes downward on the lateral side of the internal jugular vein, crosses in front of the vein a little below the middle of the neck, and forms a loop (ansa hypoglossi) with the descending ramus of the hypoglossal in front of the sheath of the carotid vessels (see page 916). Occasionally, the loop is formed within the sheath.
The Phrenic Nerve (n. phrenicus; internal respiratory nerve of Bell) contains motor and sensory fibers in the proportion of about two to one. It arises chiefly from the fourth cervical nerve, but receives a branch from the third and another from the fifth; (the fibers from the fifth occasionally come through the nerve to the Subclavius.) It descends to the root of the neck, running obliquely across the front of the Scalenus anterior, and beneath the Sternocleidomastoideus, the inferior belly of the Omohyoideus, and the transverse cervical and transverse scapular vessels. It next passes in front of the first part of the subclavian artery, between it and the subclavian vein, and, as it enters the thorax, crosses the internal mammary artery near its origin. Within the thorax, it descends nearly vertically in front of the root of the lung, and then between the pericardium and the mediastinal pleura, to the diaphragm, where it divides into branches, which pierce that muscle, and are distributed to its under surface. In the thorax it is accompanied by the pericardiacophrenic branch of the internal mammary artery. The two phrenic nerves differ in their length, and also in their relations at the upper part of the thorax. The right nerve is situated more deeply, and is shorter and more vertical in direction than the left; it lies lateral to the right innominate vein and superior vena cava. The left nerve is rather longer than the right, from the inclination of the heart to the left side, and from the diaphragm being lower on this than on the right side. At the root of the neck it is crossed by the thoracic duct; in the superior mediastinal cavity it lies between the left common carotid and left subclavian arteries, and crosses superficial to the vagus on the left side of the arch of the aorta.
FIG. 90806 The phrenic nerve and its relations with the vagus nerve.
Each nerve supplies filaments to the pericardium and pleura, and at the root of the neck is joined by a filament from the sympathetic, and, occasionally, by one from the ansa hypoglossi. Branches have been described as passing to the peritoneum. From the right nerve, one or two filaments pass to join in a small phrenic ganglion with phrenic branches of the celiac plexus; and branches from this ganglion are distributed to the falciform and coronary ligaments of the liver, the suprarenal gland, inferior vena cava, and right atrium. From the left nerve, filaments pass to join the phrenic branches of the celiac plexus, but without any ganglionic enlargement; and a twig is distributed to the left suprarenal gland. Deep Branches of the Cervical Plexus. EXTERNAL SERIES.Communicating Branches.The external series of deep branches of the cervical plexus communicates with the accessory nerve, in the substance of the Sternocleidomastoideus, in the posterior triangle, and beneath the Trapezius. Muscular Branches are distributed to the Sternocleidomastoideus, Trapezius, Levator scapulæ, and Scalenus medius. The branch for the Sternocleidomastoideus is derived from the second cervical; the Trapezius and Levator scapulæ receive branches from the third and fourth. The Scalenus medius receives twigs either from the third or fourth, or occasionally from both.
FIG. 90807 Plan of brachial plexus.
The Branchial Plexus (plexus brachialis) (Fig. 90807).The brachial plexus is formed by the union of the anterior divisions of the lower four cervical nerves and the greater part of the anterior division of the first thoracic nerve; the fourth cervical usually gives a branch to the fifth cervical, and the first thoracic frequently receives one from the second thoracic. The plexus extends from the lower part of the side of the neck to the axilla. The nerves which form it are nearly equal in size, but their mode of communication is subject to some variation. The following is, however, the most constant arrangement. The fifth and sixth cervical unite soon after their exit from the intervertebral foramina to form a trunk. The eighth cervical and first thoracic also unite to form one trunk, while the seventh cervical runs out alone. Three trunksupper, middle, and lowerare thus formed, and, as they pass beneath the clavicle, each splits into an anterior and a posterior division.133 The anterior divisions of the upper and middle trunks unite to form a cord, which is situated on the lateral side of the second part of the axillary artery, and is called the lateral cord or fasciculus of the plexus. The anterior division of the lower trunk passes down on the medial side of the axillary artery, and forms the medial cord or fasciculus of the brachial plexus. The posterior divisions of all three trunks unite to form the posterior cord or fasciculus of the plexus, which is situated behind the second portion of the axillary artery.
Relations.In the neck, the brachial plexus lies in the posterior triangle, being covered by the skin, Platysma, and deep fascia; it is crossed by the supraclavicular nerves, the inferior belly of the Omohyoideus, the external jugular vein, and the transverse cervical artery. It emerges between the Scaleni anterior and medius; its upper part lies above the third part of the subclavian artery, while the trunk formed by the union of the eighth cervical and first thoracic is placed behind the artery; the plexus next passes behind the clavicle, the Subclavius, and the transverse scapular vessels, and lies upon the first digitation of the Serratus anterior, and the Subscapularis. In the axilla it is placed lateral to the first portion of the axillary artery; it surrounds the second part of the artery, one cord lying medial to it, one lateral to it, and one behind it; at the lower part of the axilla it gives off its terminal branches to the upper limb.
FIG. 90808 The right brachial plexus with its short branches, viewed from in front. The Sternomastoid and Trapezius muscles have been completely, the Omohyoid and Subclavius have been partially, removed; a piece has been sawed out of the clavicle; the Pectoralis muscles have been incised and reflected. (Spalteholz.)
Branches of Communication.Close to their exit from the intervertebral foramina the fifth and sixth cervical nerves each receive a gray ramus communicans from the middle cervical ganglion of the sympathetic trunk, and the seventh and eighth cervical similar twigs from the inferior ganglion. The first thoracic nerve receives a gray ramus from, and contributes a white ramus to, the first thoracic ganglion. On the Scalenus anterior the phrenic nerve is joined by a branch from the fifth cervical. Branches of Distribution.The branches of distribution of the brachial plexus may be arranged into two groups, viz., those given off above and those below the clavicle. Supraclavicular Branches.Dorsal Scapular ..5 C.Suprascapular 5, 6 C.Nerve to Subclavius 5, 6 C.Long thoracic .5, 6, 7 C.To Longus colli and Scaleni 5, 6, 7, 8 C. FIG. 90809 The right brachial plexus (infraclavicular portion) in the axillary fossa; viewed from below and in front. The Pectoralis major and minor muscles have been in large part removed; their attachments have been reflected. (Spalteholz.) The Dorsal Scapular Nerve (n. dorsalis scapulæ; nerve to the Rhomboidei; posterior scapular nerve) arises from the fifth cervical, pierces the Scalenus medius, passes beneath the Levator scapulæ, to which it occasionally gives a twig, and ends in the Rhomboidei. The Suprascapular (n. suprascapularis) (Fig. 90818) arises from the trunk formed by the union of the fifth and sixth cervical nerves. It runs lateralward beneath the Trapezius and the Omohyoideus, and enters the supraspinatous fossa through the suprascapular notch, below, the superior transverse scapular ligament; it then passes beneath the Supraspinatus, and curves around the lateral border of the spine of the scapula to the infraspinatous fossa. In the supraspinatous fossa it gives off two branches to the Supraspinatus muscle, and an articular filament to the shoulder-joint; and in the infraspinatous fossa it gives off two branches to the Infraspinatous muscle, besides some filaments to the shoulder-joint and scapula. The Nerve to the Subclavius (n. subclavius) is a small filament, which arises from the point of junction of the fifth and sixth cervical nerves; it descends to the muscle in front of the third part of the subclavian artery and the lower trunk of the plexus, and is usually connected by a filament with the phrenic nerve. The Long Thoracic Nerve (n. thoracalis longus; external respiratory nerve of Bell; posterior thoracic nerve) (Fig. 90816) supplies the Serratus anterior. It usually arises by three roots from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves; but the root from the seventh nerve may be absent. The roots from the fifth and sixth nerves pierce the Scalenus medius, while that from the seventh passes in front of the muscle. The nerve descends behind the brachial plexus and the axillary vessels, resting on the outer surface of the Serratus anterior. It extends along the side of the thorax to the lower border of that muscle, supplying filaments to each of its digitations. The branches for the Longus colli and Scaleni arise from the lower four cervical nerves at their exit from the intervertebral foramina. Infraclavicular Branches.The infraclavicular branches are derived from the three cords of the brachial plexus, but the fasciculi of the nerves may be traced through the plexus to the spinal nerves from which they originate. They are as follows:Lateral cord Musculocutaneous 5, 6, 7 C.Lateral anterior thoracic 5, 6, 7 C.Lateral head of median ..6, 7 C.
Medial cord Medial anterior thoracic
Medial antibrachial cutaneous
Medial brachial cutaneous .8 C, 1 T.Ulnar
Medial head of median
5, 6 C.Lower subscapular
5, 6 C.Thoracodorsal..
5, 6, 7 C.Axillary
5, 6 C.Radial
6, 7, 8 C, 1 T. The Anterior Thoracic Nerves (nn. thoracales anteriores) (Fig. 90816) supply the Pectorales major and minor.
The lateral anterior thoracic (fasciculus lateralis) the larger of the two, arises from the lateral cord of the brachial plexus, and through it from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves. It passes across the axillary artery and vein, pierces the coracoclavicular fascia, and is distributed to the deep surface of the Pectoralis major. It sends a filament to join the medial anterior thoracic and form with it a loop in front of the first part of the axillary artery. The medial anterior thoracic (fasciculus medialis) arises from the medial cord of the plexus and through it from the eighth cervical and first thoracic. It passes behind the first part of the axillary artery, curves forward between the axillary artery and vein, and unites in front of the artery with a filament from the lateral nerve. It then enters the deep surface of the Pectoralis minor, where it divides into a number of branches, which supply the muscle. Two or three branches pierce the muscle and end in the Pectoralis major. The Subscapular Nerves (nn. subscapulares), two in number, spring from the posterior cord of the plexus and through it from the fifth and sixth cervical nerves. The upper subscapular (short subscapular), the smaller enters the upper part of the Subscapularis, and is frequently represented by two branches. The lower subscapular supplies the lower part of the Subscapularis, and ends in the Teres major; the latter muscle is sometimes supplied by a separate branch. The Thoracodorsal Nerve (n. thoracodorsalis; middle or long subscapular nerve), a branch of the posterior cord of the plexus, derives its fibers from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves; it follows the course of the subscapular artery, along the posterior wall of the axilla to the Latissimus dorsi, in which it may be traced as far as the lower border of the muscle.
FIG. 90810 Suprascapular and axillary nerves of right side, seen from behind. (Testut.)
The Axillary Nerve (n. axillaris; circumflex nerve) (Fig. 90818) arises from the posterior cord of the brachial plexus, and its fibers are derived from the fifth and sixth cervical nerves. It lies at first behind the axillary artery, and in front of the Subscapularis, and passes downward to the lower border of that muscle. It then winds backward, in company with the posterior humeral circumflex artery, through a quadrilateral space bounded above by the Subscapularis, below by the Teres major, medially by the long head of the Triceps brachii, and laterally by the surgical neck of the humerus, and divides into an anterior and a posterior branch.
The anterior branch (upper branch) winds around the surgical neck of the humerus, beneath the Deltoideus, with the posterior humeral circumflex vessels, as far as the anterior border of that muscle, supplying it, and giving off a few small cutaneous branches, which pierce the muscle and ramify in the skin covering its lower part. The posterior branch (lower branch) supplies the Teres minor and the posterior part of the Deltoideus; upon the branch to the Teres minor an oval enlargement (pseudoganglion) usually exists. The posterior branch then pierces the deep fascia and is continued as the lateral brachial cutaneous nerve, which sweeps around the posterior border of the Deltoideus and supplies the skin over the lower two-thirds of the posterior part of this muscle, as well as that covering the long head of the Triceps brachii (Figs 90811, 90813).
The trunk of the axillary nerve gives off an articular filament which enters the shoulder-joint below the Subscapularis.
FIG. 90811 Cutaneous nerves of right upper extremity. Anterior view.
FIG. 90812 Diagram of segmental distribution of the cutaneous nerves of the right upper extremity. Anterior view.
The Musculocutaneous Nerve (n. musculocutaneus) (Fig. 90816) arises from the lateral cord of the brachial plexus, opposite the lower border of the Pectoralis minor, its fibers being derived from the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical nerves. It pierces the Coracobrachialis muscle and passes obliquely between the Biceps brachii and the Brachialis, to the lateral side of the arm; a little above the elbow it pierces the deep fascia lateral to the tendon of the Biceps brachii and is continued into the forearm as the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve. In its course through the arm it supplies the Coracobrachialis, Biceps brachii, and the greater part of the Brachialis. The branch to the Coracobrachialis is given off from the nerve close to its origin, and in some instances as a separate filament from the lateral cord of the plexus; it is derived from the seventh, cervical nerve. The branches to the Biceps brachii and Brachialis are given off after the musculocutaneous has pierced the Coracobrachialis; that supplying the Brachialis gives a filament to the elbow-joint. The nerve also sends a small branch to the bone, which enters the nutrient foramen with the accompanying artery.
FIG. 90813 Cutaneous nerves of right upper extremity. Posterior view.
FIG. 90814 Diagram of segmental distribution of the cutaneous nerves of the right upper extremity. Posterior view.
The lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve (n. cutaneus antibrachii cutaneous lateralis; branch of musculocutaneous nerve) passes behind the cephalic vein, and divides, opposite the elbow-joint, into a volar and a dorsal branch (Figs. 90811, 90813).
The volar branch (ramus volaris; anterior branch) descends along the radial border of the forearm to the wrist, and supplies the skin over the lateral half of its volar surface. At the wrist-joint it is placed in front of the radial artery, and some filaments, piercing the deep fascia, accompany that vessel to the dorsal surface of the carpus. The nerve then passes downward to the ball of the thumb, where it ends in cutaneous filaments. It communicates with the superficial branch of the radial nerve, and with the palmar cutaneous branch of the median nerve. The dorsal branch (ramus dorsalis; posterior branch) descends, along the dorsal surface of the radial side of the forearm to the wrist. It supplies the skin of the lower two-thirds of the dorso-lateral surface of the forearm, communicating with the superficial branch of the radial nerve and the dorsal antibrachial cutaneous branch of the radial. The musculocutaneous nerve presents frequent irregularities. It may adhere for some distance to the median and then pass outward, beneath the Biceps brachii, instead of through the Coracobrachialis. Some of the fibers of the median may run for some distance in the musculocutaneous and then leave it to join their proper trunk; less frequently the reverse is the case, and the median sends a branch to join the musculocutaneous. The nerve may pass under the Coracobrachialis or through the Biceps brachii. Occasionally it gives a filament to the Pronator teres, and it supplies the dorsal surface of the thumb when the superficial branch of the radial nerve is absent. The Medial Antibrachial Cutaneous Nerve (n. cutaneus antibrachii medialis; internal cutaneous nerve) (Fig. 90816) arises from the medial cord of the brachial plexus. It derives its fibers from the eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves, and at its commencement is placed medial to the axillary artery. It gives off, near the axilla, a filament, which pierces the fascia and supplies the integument covering the Biceps brachii, nearly as far as the elbow. The nerve then runs down the ulnar side of the arm medial to the brachial artery, pierces the deep fascia with the basilic vein, about the middle of the arm, and divides into a volar and an ulnar branch.
The volar branch (ramus volaris; anterior branch), the larger, passes usually in front of, but occasionally behind, the vena mediana cubiti (median basilic vein). It then descends on the front of the ulnar side of the forearm, distributing filaments to the skin as far as the wrist, and communicating with the palmar cutaneous branch of the ulnar nerve (Fig. 90811).
The ulnar branch (ramus ulnaris; posterior branch) passes obliquely downward on the medial side of the basilic vein, in front of the medial epicondyle of the humerus, to the back of the forearm, and descends on its ulnar side as far as the wrist, distributing filaments to the skin. It communicates with the medial brachial cutaneous, the dorsal antibrachial cutaneous branch of the radial, and the dorsal branch of the ulnar (Fig. 90813).
The Medial Brachial Cutaneous Nerve (n. cutaneus brachii medialis; lesser internal cutaneous nerve; nerve of Wrisberg) is distributed to the skin on the ulnar side of the arm (Figs. 90811, 90813). It is the smallest branch of the brachial plexus, and arising from the medial cord receives its fibers from the eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves. It passes through the axilla, at first lying behind, and then medial to the axillary vein, and communicates with the intercostobrachial nerve. It descends along the medial side of the brachial artery to the middle of the arm, where it pierces the deep fascia, and is distributed to the skin of the back of the lower third of the arm, extending as far as the elbow, where some filaments are lost in the skin in front of the medial epicondyle, and others over the olecranon. It communicates with the ulnar branch of the medial antibrachial cutaneous nerve.
In some cases the medial brachial cutaneous and intercostobrachial are connected by two or three filaments, which form a plexus in the axilla. In other cases the intercostobrachial is of large size, and takes the place of the medial brachial cutaneous, receiving merely a filament of communication from the brachial plexus, which represents the latter nerve; in a few cases, this filament is wanting. The Median Nerve (n. medianus) (Fig. 90816) extends along the middle of the arm and forearm to the hand. It arises by two roots, one from the lateral and one from the medial cord of the brachial plexus; these embrace the lower part of the axillary artery, uniting either in front of or lateral to that vessel. Its fibers are derived from the sixth, seventh, and eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves. As it descends through the arm, it lies at first lateral to the brachial artery; about the level of the insertion of the Coracobrachialis it crosses the artery, usually in front of, but occasionally behind it, and lies on its medial side at the bend of the elbow, where it is situated behind the lacertus fibrosus (bicipital fascia), and is separated from the elbow-joint by the Brachialis. In the forearm it passes between the two heads of the Pronator teres and crosses the ulnar artery, but is separated from this vessel by the deep head of the Pronator teres. It descends beneath the Flexor digitorum sublimis, lying on the Flexor digitorum profundus, to within 5 cm. of the transverse carpal ligament; here it becomes more superficial, and is situated between the tendons of the Flexor digitorum sublimis and Flexor carpi radialis. In this situation it lies behind, and rather to the radial side of, the tendon of the Palmaris longus, and is covered by the skin and fascia. It then passes behind the transverse carpal ligament into the palm of the hand. In its course through the forearm it is accompanied by the median artery, a branch of the volar interroseous artery.
Branches.With the exception of the nerve to the Pronator teres, which sometimes arises above the elbow-joint, the median nerve gives off no branches in the arm. As it passes in front of the elbow, it supplies one or two twigs to the joint. In the forearm its branches are: muscular, volar interosseous, and palmar. The muscular branches (rami musculares) are derived from the nerve near the elbow and supply all the superficial muscles on the front of the forearm, except the Flexor carpi ulnaris. The volar interosseous nerve (n. interosseus [antibrachii] volaris; anterior interosseous nerve) supplies the deep muscles on the front of the forearm, except the ulnar half of the Flexor digitorum profundus. It accompanies the volar interosseous artery along the front of the interosseous membrane, in the interval between the Flexor pollicis longus and Flexor digitorum profundus, supplying the whole of the former and the radial half of the latter, and ending below in the Pronator quadratus and wrist-joint. The palmar branch (ramus cutaneus palmaris n. mediani) of the median nerve arises at the lower part of the forearm. It pierces the volar carpal ligament, and divides into a lateral and a medial branch; the lateral branch supplies the skin over the ball of the thumb, and communicates with the volar branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve; the medial branch supplies the skin of the palm and communicates with the palmar cutaneous branch of the ulnar. In the palm of the hand the median nerve is covered by the skin and the palmar aponeurosis, and rests on the tendons of the Flexor muscles. Immediately after emerging from under the transverse carpal ligament the nerve becomes enlarged and flattened and splits into a smaller, lateral, and a larger, medial portion. The lateral portion supplies a short, stout branch to certain of the muscles of the ball of the thumb, viz., the Abductor brevis, the Opponens, and the superficial head of the Flexor brevis, and then divides into three proper volar digital nerves; two of these supply the sides of the thumb, while the third gives a twig to the first Lumbricalis and is distributed to the radial side of the index finger. The medial portion of the nerve divides into two common volar digital nerves. The first of these gives a twig to the second Lumbricalis and runs toward the cleft between the index and middle fingers, where it divides into two proper digital nerves for the adjoining sides of these digits; the second runs toward the cleft between the middle and ring fingers, and splits into two proper digital nerves for the adjoining sides of these digits; it communicates with a branch from the ulnar nerve and sometimes sends a twig to the third Lumbricalis. Each proper digital nerve, opposite the base of the first phalanx, gives off a dorsal branch which joins the dorsal digital nerve from the superficial branch of the radial nerve, and supplies the integument on the dorsal aspect of the last phalanx. At the end of the digit, the proper digital nerve divides into two branches, one of which supplies the pulp of the finger, the other ramifies around and beneath the nail. The proper digital nerves, as they run along the fingers, are placed superficial to the corresponding arteries.
FIG. 90815 Superficial palmar nerves. (Testut.)
The Ulnar Nerve (n. ulnaris) (Fig. 90816) is placed along the medial side of the limb, and is distributed to the muscles and skin of the forearm and hand. It arises from the medial cord of the brachial plexus, and derives its fibers from the eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves. It is smaller than the median, and lies at first behind it, but diverges from it in its course down the arm. At its origin it lies medial to the axillary artery, and bears the same relation to the brachial artery as far as the middle of the arm. Here it pierces the medial intermuscular septum, runs obliquely across the medial head of the Triceps brachii, and descends to the groove between the medial epicondyle and the olecranon, accompanied by the superior ulnar collateral artery. At the elbow, it rests upon the back of the medial epicondyle, and enters the forearm between the two heads of the Flexor carpi ulnaris. In the forearm, it descends along the ulnar side lying upon the Flexor digitorum profundus; its upper half is covered by the Flexor carpi ulnaris, its lower half lies on the lateral side of the muscle, covered by the integument and fascia. In the upper third of the forearm, it is separated from the ulnar artery by a considerable interval, but in the rest of its extent lies close to the medial side of the artery. About 5 cm. above the wrist it ends by dividing into a dorsal and a volar branch.
FIG. 90816 Nerves of the left upper extremity.
FIG. 90817 Deep palmar nerves. (Testut.)
The branches of the ulnar nerve are: articular to the elbow-joint, muscular, palmar cutaneous, dorsal, and volar. The articular branches to the elbow-joint are several small filaments which arise from the nerve as it lies in the groove between the medial epicondyle and olecranon. The muscular branches (rami musculares) two in number, arise near the elbow: one supplies the Flexor carpi ulnaris; the other, the ulnar half of the Flexor digitorum profundus. The palmar cutaneous branch (ramus cutaneus palmaris) arises about the middle of the forearm, and descends on the ulnar artery, giving off some filaments to the vessel. It perforates the volar carpal ligament and ends in the skin of the palm, communicating with the palmar branch of the median nerve. The dorsal branch (ramus dorsalis manus) arises about 5 cm. above the wrist; it passes backward beneath the Flexor carpi ulnaris, perforates the deep fascia, and, running along the ulnar side of the back of the wrist and hand, divides into two dorsal digital branches; one supplies the ulnar side of the little finger; the other, the adjacent sides of the little and ring fingers. It also sends a twig to join that given by the superficial branch of the radial nerve for the adjoining sides of the middle and ring fingers, and assists in supplying them. A branch is distributed to the metacarpal region of the hand, communicating with a twig of the superficial branch of the radial nerve (Fig. 90813).
FIG. 90818 The suprascapular, axillary, and radial nerves.
On the little finger the dorsal digital branches extend only as far as the base of the terminal phalanx, and on the ring finger as far as the base of the second phalanx; the more distal parts of these digits are supplied by dorsal branches derived from the proper volar digital branches of the ulnar nerve. The volar branch (ramus volaris manus) crosses the transverse carpal ligament on the lateral side of the pisiform bone, medial to and a little behind the ulnar artery. It ends by dividing into a superficial and a deep branch. The superficial branch (ramus superficialis [n. ulnaris] supplies the Palmaris brevis, and the skin on the ulnar side of the hand, and divides into a proper volar digital branch for the ulnar side of the little finger, and a common volar digital branch which gives a communicating twig to the median nerve and divides into two proper digital nerves for the adjoining sides of the little and ring fingers (Fig. 90811). The proper digital branches are distributed to the fingers in the same manner as those of the median.
The deep branch (ramus profundus) accompanied by the deep branch of the ulnar artery, passes between the Abductor digiti quinti and Flexor digiti quinti brevis; it then perforates the Opponens digiti quinti and follows the course of the deep volar arch beneath the Flexor tendons. At its origin it supplies the three short muscles of the little finger. As it crosses the deep part of the hand, it supplies all the Interossei and the third and fourth Lumbricales; it ends by supplying the Adductores pollicis and the medial head of the Flexor pollicis brevis. It also sends articular filaments to the wrist-joint. It has been pointed out that the ulnar part of the Flexor digitorum profundus is supplied by the ulnar nerve; the third and fourth Lumbricales, which are connected with the tendons of this part of the muscle, are supplied by the same nerve. In like manner the lateral part of the Flexor digitorum profundus and the first and second Lumbricales are supplied by the median nerve; the third Lumbricalis frequently receives an additional twig from the median nerve. The Radial Nerve (n. radialis; musculospiral nerve) (Fig. 90818), the largest branch of the brachial plexus, is the continuation of the posterior cord of the plexus. Its fibres are derived from the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves. It descends behind the first part of the axillary artery and the upper part of the brachial artery, and in front of the tendons of the Latissimus dorsi and Teres major. It then winds around from the medial to the lateral side of the humerus in a groove with the a. profunda brachii, between the medial and lateral heads of the Triceps brachii. It pierces the lateral intermuscular septum, and passes between the Brachialis and Brachioradialis to the front of the lateral epicondyle, where it divides into a superficial and a deep branch.
The branches of the musculospiral (Radial) nerve are:
Deep. The Radial branches (rami musculares) supply the Triceps brachii, Anconæus, Brachioradialis, Extensor carpi radialis longus, and Brachialis, and are grouped as medial, posterior, and lateral. The medial muscular branches supply the medial and long heads of the Triceps brachii. That to the medial head is a long, slender filament, which lies close to the ulnar nerve as far as the lower third of the arm, and is therefore frequently spoken of as the ulnar collateral nerve. The posterior muscular branch, of large size, arises from the nerve in the groove between the Triceps brachii and the humerus. It divides into filaments, which supply the medial and lateral heads of the Triceps brachii and the Anconæus muscles. The branch for the latter muscle is a long, slender filament, which descends in the substance of the medial head of the Triceps brachii. The lateral muscular branches supply the Brachioradialis, Extensor carpi radialis longus, and the lateral part of the Brachialis. The cutaneous branches are two in number, the posterior brachial cutaneous and the dorsal antibrachial cutaneous. The posterior brachial cutaneous nerve (n. cutaneus brachii posterior; internal cutaneous branch of musculospiral) arises in the axilla, with the medial muscular branch. It is of small size, and passes through the axilla to the medial side of the area supplying the skin on its dorsal surface nearly as far as the olecranon. In its course it crosses behind, and communicates with, the intercostobrachial. The dorsal antibrachial cutaneous nerve (n. cutaneus antibrachii dorsalis; external cutaneous branch of musculospiral) perforates the lateral head of the Triceps brachii at its attachment to the humerus. The upper and smaller branch of the nerve passes to the front of the elbow, lying close to the cephalic vein, and supplies the skin of the lower half of the arm (Fig. 90811). The lower branch pierces the deep fascia below the insertion of the Deltoideus, and descends along the lateral side of the arm and elbow, and then along the back of the forearm to the wrist, supplying the skin in its course, and joining, near its termination, with the dorsal branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve (Fig. 90813).
The Superficial Branch of the Radial Nerve (ramus superficialis radial nerve) passes along the front of the radial side of the forearm to the commencement of its lower third. It lies at first slightly lateral to the radial artery, concealed beneath the Brachioradialis. In the middle third of the forearm, it lies behind the same muscle, close to the lateral side of the artery. It quits the artery about 7 cm. above the wrist, passes beneath the tendon of the Brachioradialis, and, piercing the deep fascia, divides into two branches (Fig. 90813).
The lateral branch, the smaller, supplies the skin of the radial side and ball of the thumb, joining with the volar branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve. The medial branch communicates, above the wrist, with the dorsal branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous, and, on the back of the hand, with the dorsal branch of the ulnar nerve. It then divides into four digital nerves, which are distributed as follows: the first supplies the ulnar side of the thumb; the second, the radial side of the index finger; the third, the adjoining sides of the index and middle fingers; the fourth communicates with a filament from the dorsal branch of the ulnar nerve, and supplies the adjacent sides of the middle and ring fingers.134 The Deep Branch of the Radial Nerve (n. interosseus dorsalis; dorsal or posterior interosseous nerve) winds to the back of the forearm around the lateral side of the radius between the two planes of fibers of the Supinator, and is prolonged downward between the superficial and deep layers of muscles, to the middle of the forearm. Considerably diminished in size, it descends, as the dorsal interosseous nerve, on the interosseous membrane, in front of the Extensor pollicis longus, to the back of the carpus, where it presents a gangliform enlargement from which filaments are distributed to the ligaments and articulations of the carpus. It supplies all the muscles on the radial side and dorsal surface of the forearm, excepting the Anconæus, Brachioradialis, and Extenosr carpi radialis longus.
Note 133.The posterior division of the lower trunk is very much smaller than the others, and is frequently derived entirely from the eighth cervical nerve. [back]Note 134.According to Hutchison, the digital nerve to the thumb reaches only as high as the root of the nail; the one to the forefinger as high as the middle of the second phalanx; and the one to the middle and ring fingers not higher than the first phalangeal joint.London Hosp. Gaz., iii, 319.