Medial and lateral pectoral nerves: Course and branches



During modified radical mastectomy or cosmetic surgery, denervation of the lower part of the pectoralis major frequently occurs and may reduce muscle spasm, with consequent better reconstruction of the breast. The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between the pectoral nerves and the pectoral muscles. Eight unembalmed female cadavers were dissected and vascular and radiologic studies performed. The lateral pectoral nerves showed a constant course, parallel to the thoraco-acromial vessels. They coursed for 55 ± 7 mm inferomedially on the deep surface of pectoralis major, under its fascia. The medial pectoral nerves showed two main patterns of branching, which correlated with the extent of the costal attachments of the pectoralis minor muscles. In pattern A (56%), associated with costal attachments narrower than 6.0 cm, the nerve pierced the deep aspect of the pectoralis minor as a single trunk, ramified in the muscle, and gave some branches that appeared on the superficial aspect to enter the pectoralis major. In pattern B (44%), associated with costal attachments wider than 6.6 cm, the nerve divided before entering pectoralis minor and its branches passed through the muscle or round its lower border to reach pectoralis major. The most medial branch of the medial pectoral nerve directed to the pectoralis major muscle emerged from pectoralis minor at the third intercostal space in the midclavicular line, a mean of 10.3 cm lateral to the margin of the sternum. Knowledge of the relationship between the extent of the costal attachment of pectoralis minor and the two patterns of branching of the medial pectoral nerve may be useful when performing elective denervation of the major pectoralis muscle. Clin. Anat. 20:157–162, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.