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Scientific Articles   |    
Long Thoracic Nerve: Anatomy and Functional Assessment
Jayme Augusto Bertelli, MD, PhD1; Marcos Flávio Ghizoni, MD2
1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Governador Celso Ramos Hospital, Praça Getulio Vargas, 322, Florianópolis, SC, 88020030, Brazil. E-mail address: bertelli@matrix.com.br
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Nossa Senhora da Conceição Hospital, Rua Pe.Bernardo Freuser, 306 D, Tubarão, SC, 88701160, Brazil. E-mail address: ghizoni@paralisias.com.br
View Disclosures and Other Information
The authors did not receive grants or outside funding in support of their research or preparation of this manuscript. They did not receive payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated.
Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Governador Celso Ramos Hospital, Florianópolis; the Department of Neurosurgery, Nossa Senhora da Conceição Hospital, Tubarão, Brazil; and Laboratoire d'Anatomie, René Descartes University, Paris, France

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2005 May 01;87(5):993-998. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.D.02383
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Abstract

Background: The anatomy and function of the long thoracic nerve are not fully understood. The purposes of this study were to clarify the anatomy of the long thoracic nerve and to propose a clinical test to assess the function of the upper division of the long thoracic nerve.

Methods: The long thoracic nerve and the serratus anterior muscle were studied in fifteen fresh cadavera. Six patients had an operation to treat a brachial plexus injury, and the long thoracic nerve was electrically stimulated. The resulting shoulder motion was then observed.

Results: The long thoracic nerve was formed by branches arising from the C5, C6, and C7 nerve roots. The C5 and C6 branches joined beneath the scalenus medius muscle to form the upper division of the long thoracic nerve, which was located 1 cm posteriorly and superiorly to the upper trunk origin. The union of the upper division with the branch from C7 occurred caudally, in the axillary region. Two branches from the upper division of the long thoracic nerve to the upper portion of the serratus anterior muscle were consistently identified. After electrical stimulation of the upper division branches, shoulder protraction was observed.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: In the supraclavicular region, the long thoracic nerve has a trajectory parallel to the brachial plexus, which is contrary to the schematic representation in most textbooks. The upper division of the long thoracic nerve can be assessed by the shoulder protraction test.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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