Topographical anatomy of the radial nerve and its muscular branches related to surface landmarks


Correspondence to: Hee-Jun Yang, Department of Anatomy, Kosin University College of Medicine, 34 Amnam-dong, Seo-gu, Busan 602-703, Korea. E-mail:


Understanding of the anatomy of the radial nerve and its branches is vital to the treatment of humeral fracture or the restoration of upper extremity function. In this study, we dissected 40 upper extremities from adult cadavers to locate the course of the radial nerve and the origins and insertions of the branches of the radial nerve using surface landmarks. The radial nerve reached and left the radial groove and pierced the lateral intermuscular septum, at the levels of 46.7, 60.5, and 66.8% from the acromion to the transepicondylar line, respectively. Branches to the long head of the triceps brachii originated in the axilla, and branches to the medial and lateral heads originated in the axilla or in the arm. The muscular attachments to the long, medial, and lateral heads were on average 34.0 mm proximal, 16.4 mm distal, and 19.3 mm proximal to the level of inferior end of the deltoid muscle, respectively. The radial nerve innervated 65.0% of the brachialis muscles. Branches to the brachioradialis and those to the extensor carpi radialis longus arose from the radial nerve above the transepicondylar line. Branches to the extensor carpi radialis brevis usually arose from the deep branch of radial nerve (67.5%); however, in some cases, branches to the extensor carpi radialis brevis arose from either the radial nerve (20.0%) or the superficial branch of the radial nerve (12.5%). Using these data, the course of the radial nerve can be estimated by observing the surface of the arm. Clin. Anat. 26:862–869, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.