Despite the introduction of microsurgical techniques into clinical practice, the results of surgical procedures involving the brachial plexus and peripheral nerves are still far from spectacular. We therefore studied the rat brachial plexus and its terminal branches in 203 rats. Detailed anatomic and morphologic analyses of the biceps brachii and musculocutaneous nerve, finger flexors, flexor carpi radialis, and the median nerve were performed. Various sources of conventional and vascularized nerve grafts were explored. After musculocutaneous nerve section or median nerve section, there were no articular contractures or automutilations, which constitutes an advantage for these experimental models over the sciatic nerve model. The brachial plexus and its terminal branches provide a good experimental model which can be used to assess the development and normal control of muscle function, examine the mechanisms underlying functional recovery, and test the effects of treatments to enhance recovery. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.