The suprascapular nerve and its articular branch to the acromioclavicular joint: an anatomic study

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2011 Mar;20(2):e13-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2010.09.004. Epub 2010 Dec 30.

Abstract

Hypothesis: The suprascapular nerve and its articular branch innervate the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. Documenting the detailed anatomy of this innervation in the AC joint, including the pertinent surgical and anatomic relationships of the suprascapular nerve and its branches to the AC joint, will aid in the prevention of injury and the reduction of risk of denervation during shoulder surgery.

Materials and methods: Twelve shoulders from 6 embalmed human cadavers were bilaterally dissected to study the course of the suprascapular nerve and its motor and sensory branches.

Results: The sensory branch runs superiorly to the supraspinatus muscle towards the AC joint. The average distance from the supraglenoid tubercle to the nerve at the coracoid base was 15 mm. The average distance from the coracoclavicular ligaments to the nerve at the coracoid base was 6 mm. The average distance from the spinoglenoid notch to the sensory branch at the suprascapular notch was 22 mm. The average length of the sensory branch was 30 mm. In half of the specimen shoulders, the suprascapular artery accompanied the nerve at the suprascapular notch under the transverse scapular ligament.

Discussion: The innervation of the AC joint by the suprascapular nerve has been described, along with pertinent distances to anatomic landmarks. The sensory branch of the suprascapular nerve, which passed through the scapular notch inferior to the transverse scapular ligament, was found in 100% of the study specimens.

Conclusion: The sensory branch of the suprascapular nerve runs superiorly to the supraspinatus muscle towards the AC joint. The detailed information can be used to help decrease the risk of nerve injury during shoulder surgery and to aid in effectively diagnosing and treating AC joint-related disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Acromioclavicular Joint / innervation*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brachial Plexus / anatomy & histology*
  • Cadaver
  • Clavicle / innervation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Scapula / innervation