Radial nerve injury is a rare but clinically significant complication of revision shoulder arthroplasty and fixation of native and periprosthetic proximal humeral fractures. Understanding of the anatomic relationship between the radial nerve as it enters the humeral spiral groove and anterior shoulder landmarks in a deltopectoral approach is necessary to avoid iatrogenic radial nerve injury.

Eight forequarter cadaveric specimens were dissected through a deltopectoral approach. Distances between the radial nerve entry into the proximal spiral groove and the coracoid process, distal lesser tuberosity/inferior subscapularis insertion, superior latissimus insertion, and inferior latissimus insertion were measured. Means, standard deviations, and ranges were determined for each distance.

The radial nerve entry into the proximal spiral groove averaged 133.1 mm (range, 110.3-153.0 mm) from the coracoid process, 101.9 mm (range, 76.5-124.3 mm) from the distal lesser tuberosity/inferior subscapularis insertion, 81.0 mm (range, 63.4-101.5 mm) from the superior latissimus insertion, and 39.6 mm (range, 25.5-55.4 mm) from the inferior latissimus insertion. The proximal spiral groove was distal to the inferior latissimus insertion in all specimens.

The risk of iatrogenic injury to the radial nerve at the spiral groove may be minimized through proper identification and protection or avoidance of circumferential fixation. However, if encircling fixation with cerclage cables is necessary, instrumentation proximal to the inferior edge of the latissimus dorsi insertion may reduce the risk of radial nerve injury.

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