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Anatomy of Profunda Brachial Artery in the Axilla and Its Relationship With the Radial Nerve: Fresh-Cadaver Anatomical Study and Clinical Observations

Published:August 12, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhsa.2022.06.025

      Purpose

      Dissection of the radial nerve in the axilla and upper portion of and posterior aspect of arm may be necessary for brachial plexus reconstruction, in axillary nerve paralysis, and in radial nerve injuries. The radial nerve is in intimate contact with the profunda brachial artery (PBA). The authors sought to describe the relationship of the PBA with the radial nerve.

      Materials and Methods

      We dissected the PBA and the radial nerve bilaterally in 20 upper limbs from 10 fresh cadavers after subclavian artery injection with green latex. We studied the relationship of the PBA with the radial nerve, its branching patterns, and its diameters. In addition, we performed surgery on 5 patients with brachial plexus, radial, or axillary nerve injury in whom we dissected the PBA.

      Results

      The PBA was present in all dissections, originating from the brachial artery (n = 19 specimens) close to the latissimus dorsi tendon or from the subscapular artery (n = 1 specimen). In 15 dissections, the PBA bifurcated into an anterior (AB) and a posterior (PB) branch. In one dissection, the AB was absent. The AB traveled toward the triceps medial head. The PB flanked the radial nerve posteriorly and traveled around the humerus, with the radial nerve passing between the medial and the lateral head of the triceps. The AB and PB were longer than the PBA and measured on average 53 mm (SD ± 33 mm) and 39 mm (SD ± 26 mm), respectively. Intraoperatively, the radial nerve could be exposed in the upper arm by pulling the triceps medial head anteriorly together with the AB. The PB was lateral to the radial nerve in the posterior arm approach.

      Conclusions

      In the upper arm, the radial nerve was not flanked by a single branch as postulated in anatomical textbooks but by 2 branches resulting from the bifurcation of the PBA.

      Clinical Relevance

      Awareness of PBA anatomy is essential during radial nerve dissection from the anterior or posterior arm approach.

      Key words

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