The Radial Nerve (n. radialis; musculospiral nerve), the largest branch of the brachial plexus, is the continuation of the posterior cord of the plexus.
Its fibres are derived from the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth cervical and first thoracic nerves.
It descends behind the first part of the axillary artery and the upper part of the brachial artery, and in front of the tendons of the Latissimus dorsi and Teres major.
It then winds around from the medial to the lateral side of the humerus in a groove with the a. profunda brachii, between the medial and lateral heads of the Triceps brachii.
It pierces the lateral intermuscular septum, and passes between the Brachialis and Brachioradialis to the front of the lateral epicondyle, where it divides into a superficial and a deep branch.
The branches of the radial nerve are muscular, cutaneous, superficial, deep.
The muscular branches (rami musculares) supply the Triceps brachii, Anconæus, Brachioradialis, Extensor carpi radialis longus, and Brachialis, and are grouped as medial, posterior, and lateral.
- The medial muscular branches supply the medial and long heads of the Triceps brachii. That to the medial head is a long, slender filament, which lies close to the ulnar nerve as far as the lower third of the arm, and is therefore frequently spoken of as the ulnar collateral nerve.
- The posterior muscular branch, of large size, arises from the nerve in the groove between the Triceps brachii and the humerus. It divides into filaments, which supply the medial and lateral heads of the Triceps brachii and the Anconæus muscles. The branch for the latter muscle is a long, slender filament, which descends in the substance of the medial head of the Triceps brachii.
- The lateral muscular branches supply the Brachioradialis, Extensor carpi radialis longus, and the lateral part of the Brachialis.
The cutaneous branches are two in number, the posterior brachial cutaneous and the dorsal antibrachial cutaneous.
- The Posterior cutaneous nerve of arm (Posterior brachial cutaneous nerve ; n. cutaneus brachii posterior; internal cutaneous branch of musculospiral) arises in the axilla, with the medial muscular branch. It is of small size, and passes through the axilla to the medial side of the area supplying the skin on its dorsal surface nearly as far as the olecranon. In its course it crosses behind, and communicates with, the intercostobrachial.
- The Inferior lateral cutaneous nerve of arm (Inferior lateral brachial cutaneous nerve ; dorsal antibrachial cutaneous nerve ; n. cutaneus antibrachii dorsalis; external cutaneous branch of musculospiral) perforates the lateral head of the Triceps brachii at its attachment to the humerus. The upper and smaller branch of the nerve passes to the front of the elbow, lying close to the cephalic vein, and supplies the skin of the lower half of the arm. The lower branch pierces the deep fascia below the insertion of the Deltoideus, and descends along the lateral side of the arm and elbow, and then along the back of the forearm to the wrist, supplying the skin in its course, and joining, near its termination, with the dorsal branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve.
The Superficial Branch of the Radial Nerve (ramus superficialis radial nerve) passes along the front of the radial side of the forearm to the commencement of its lower third. It lies at first slightly lateral to the radial artery, concealed beneath the Brachioradialis. In the middle third of the forearm, it lies behind the same muscle, close to the lateral side of the artery. It quits the artery about 7 cm. above the wrist, passes beneath the tendon of the Brachioradialis, and, piercing the deep fascia, divides into two branches.
- The lateral branch, the smaller, supplies the skin of the radial side and ball of the thumb, joining with the volar branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous nerve.
- The medial branch communicates, above the wrist, with the dorsal branch of the lateral antibrachial cutaneous, and, on the back of the hand, with the dorsal branch of the ulnar nerve. It then divides into four digital nerves, which are distributed as follows: the first supplies the ulnar side of the thumb; the second, the radial side of the index finger; the third, the adjoining sides of the index and middle fingers; the fourth communicates with a filament from the dorsal branch of the ulnar nerve, and supplies the adjacent sides of the middle and ring fingers.
The Deep Branch of the Radial Nerve (n. interosseus dorsalis; dorsal or posterior interosseous nerve) winds to the back of the forearm around the lateral side of the radius between the two planes of fibers of the Supinator, and is prolonged downward between the superficial and deep layers of muscles, to the middle of the forearm. Considerably diminished in size, it descends, as the dorsal interosseous nerve, on the interosseous membrane, in front of the Extensor pollicis longus, to the back of the carpus, where it presents a gangliform enlargement from which filaments are distributed to the ligaments and articulations of the carpus. It supplies all the muscles on the radial side and dorsal surface of the forearm, excepting the Anconæus, Brachioradialis, and Extenosr carpi radialis longus.