Proposed surgical technique to facilitate targeted reinnervation of the infraspinatus: A cadaveric feasibility study

Cody C. Wyles, Andrés A. Maldonado, Eric R. Wagner, Matthew T. Houdek, Nirusha Lachman, Robert J. Spinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Restoration of shoulder lateral rotation remains a significant challenge following brachial plexus injury. Transfer of the accessory nerve to suprascapular nerve (SSN) has been widely performed, although with generally poor outcomes for lateral rotation. A recent report suggested a selective infraspinatus reinnervation technique using a radial nerve branch for SSN transfer. This cadaveric study was performed in 7 specimens (14 shoulders). We present technical modifications to achieve additional length to the recipient nerve (suprascapular) that would facilitate direct repair. Key elements of the technique are (1) isolation of the SSN immediately distal to its motor branch to supraspinatus near the superior transverse scapular ligament; and (2) delivery of the transected SSN through the spinoglenoid notch and deep to the infraspinatus for emergence in the infraspinatus-teres minor interval. Nerve overlap of at least 21 mm was observed in all 14 dissected shoulders between the harvested SSN and radial nerve branches. The mean nerve overlap between harvested branches was 26 mm (range 21–32 mm). The mean harvested SSN length was 59 mm (range 46–80 mm). The mean length of the harvested radial nerve branch was 72 mm (range 65–85 mm). No measurements were significantly different between left and right shoulders or between males and females (smallest P value = 0.1249). Nerve diameter of the two harvested branches was judged to be appropriately compatible for surgical coaptation in all 14 dissected shoulders. We present a variation on a described technique to increase recipient suprascapular nerve length. Additional length of the recipient nerve is achieved through utilization of a more proximal dissection of the suprascapular nerve near the level of the superior transverse scapular ligament and delivering the nerve through the teres minor-infraspinatus interval. These surgical modifications are of clinical interest when selective reinnervation of the infraspinatus muscle is considered. We believe such a targeted approach can potentially increase shoulder lateral rotation function. Clin. Anat. 32:131–136, 2019.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-136
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • infraspinatus
  • nerve transfer
  • neurotization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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