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Anatomical study of the innervation of glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joint capsules: implications for image-guided intervention


Background and objectives In 2011, chronic shoulder joint pain was reported by 18.7 million Americans. Image-guided radiofrequency ablation has emerged as an alternative intervention to manage chronic shoulder joint pain. To optimize the effectiveness of shoulder denervation, it requires a detailed understanding of the nerve supply to the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints relative to landmarks visible with image guidance. The purpose of this cadaveric study was to determine the origin, course, relationships to bony landmarks, and frequency of articular branches innervating the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints.

Methods Fifteen cadaveric specimens were meticulously dissected. The origin, course, and termination of articular branches supplying the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints were documented. The frequency of each branch was determined and used to generate a frequency map that included their relationships to bony and soft tissue landmarks.

Results In all specimens, the posterosuperior quadrant of the glenohumeral joint was supplied by suprascapular nerve; posteroinferior by posterior division of axillary nerve; anterosuperior by superior nerve to subscapularis; and anteroinferior by main trunk of axillary nerve. Less frequent innervation was found from lateral pectoral nerve and posterior cord. The acromioclavicular joint was found to be innervated by the lateral pectoral and acromial branch of suprascapular nerves in all specimens. Bony and soft tissue landmarks were identified to localize each nerve.

Conclusions The frequency map of the articular branches supplying the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints, as well as their relationship to bony and soft tissue landmarks, provide an anatomical foundation to develop novel shoulder denervation and perioperative pain management protocols.

  • anatomy
  • joint innervation
  • shoulder joint
  • radiofrequency ablation
  • nerve blocks

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