The topographic anatomy of the lower intercostal nerves is less known than the upper ones except for the twelfth intercostal nerve. It is possible to use the lower intercostal nerves to carry out a neurotization of the lumbar roots. We studied the anatomy of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh intercostal nerves in order to specify the data of descriptive and topographic anatomy allowing to carry out their harvesting under good conditions. Ninth, tenth, and eleventh intercostal nerves of 50 cadavers were dissected. The proximal part of the nerve in the posterior intercostal space was exposed through a posterior approach. The lateral intercostal space was exposed through a lateral approach, under the latissimus dorsi, which made it possible to harvest the intercostals nerve. The proximal course of the nerve in posterior intercostals space was the same in all the cases. The nerve moves obliquely towards the outside to reach the lower border of the rib. The exit of posterior intercostal space is a fibrous strait that marks the entry of a channel between two muscular layers. We describe an aponevrotic channel in which the nerve and the vessels are, immediately at the lower border of the cranial rib. The mean total length of intercostal nerve harvested by our technique was 17.96 cm for the ninth intercostal nerve, 17.14 cm for the tenth intercostal nerve, and 15.94 cm for the eleventh intercostal nerve. The bifurcation of the intercostal nerve in a deep branch and the ramus cutaneus lateralis was found in the majority of the cases, from 9.5 to 21 cm of the emergence of the intercostal nerve in posterior intercostal space. This anatomical study of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh intercostal nerves in posterior intercostal space and lateral intercostal space appears to us to allow the realization of a reliable surgical harvesting.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.