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Updated: Oct 17 2021

Axillary nerve

  • Innervation
    • Motor
      • deltoid
      • teres minor
    • Sensory
      • superficial lateral cutaneous nerve of arm
        • lateral shoulder sensation
  • Origin
    • Originates from the brachial plexus
      • middle trunk, posterior division, posterior cord
    • Carries fibers from C5 and C6
  • Course
    • Comes off posterior cord behind the axillary artery, anterior to the subscapularis muscle
    • Travels through the quadrangular space
      • runs here with the posterior circumflex humeral artery and vein
    • Gives off an anterior, posterior, and articular terminal branch
    • Terminal branches
      • anterior branch
        • wraps around the surgical neck of the humerus on the undersurface of the deltoid
        • supplies the anterior deltoid muscle
        • traditional "safe zone" from lateral acromion is 5 cm
          • axillary nerve has been shown to run 3-5 cm from the acromion in 20% of patients
          • damage to nerve with a muscle split here will denervate the anterior deltoid
        • terminates in small cutaneous branches for the anterior/anterolateral skin
      • posterior branch
        • supplies the teres minor and posterior deltoid muscles
        • pierces the deep fascia and terminates as the superior lateral cutaneous nerve of the arm
      • articular branch
        • enters the shoulder joint inferior to the subscapularis
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