Brachial plexus

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The brachial plexus is an arrangement of nerve fibres, running from the spine, specifically from above the fifth cervical vertebra to underneath the first thoracic vertebra (C5-T1). It proceeds through the neck, the axilla (armpit region) and into the arm.


  • The brachial plexus is responsible for cutaneous and muscular innervation of the entire upper limb, with two exceptions: the trapezius muscle innervated by the spinal accessory nerve and an area of skin near the axilla innervated by the intercostobrachialis nerve.
  • This function may be impaired by tumor growth of the Apical region of either Lung.
  • Therefore, brachial plexus lesions can lead to severe functional impairment.


One can remember the order of brachial plexus elements by way of the mnemonic, "Read The Damn Cadaver Book" - Roots, Trunks, Divisions, Cords, Branches or - Roots, Trunks, Divisions, Cords, Collateral/Pre-terminal Branches, and (Terminal) Branches.

  • These roots merge to form three Trunks:
    • Superior or Upper (C5-C6)
    • Middle (C7)
    • Inferior or Lower (C8-T1)
  • Each trunk then splits in two, to form six Divisions:
    • Anterior division of the superior, middle and inferior trunks
    • Posterior division of the superior, middle and inferior trunks
  • These six divisions will re-group to become the three Cords. The cords are named by their position in respect to the axillary artery.
    • The posterior cord is formed from the three posterior divisions of the trunks (C5-T1).
    • The lateral cord is the anterior divisions from the upper and middle trunks (C5-C7).
    • The medial cord is simply a continuation of the lower trunk (C8-T1).
  • The branches are listed below. Most branch off of the cords, but a few branch (indicated in italics) directly off of earlier structures. The five in bold are considered "terminal branches".


Specific branches

From Nerve Roots Muscles Cutaneous Diseases associated
roots dorsal scapular nerve C5 rhomboid muscles and levator scapulae -
roots long thoracic nerve C5, C6, C7 serratus anterior -
superior trunk nerve to the subclavius C5, C6 subclavius muscle -
superior trunk suprascapular nerve C5, C6 supraspinatus and infraspinatus -
lateral cord lateral pectoral nerve C5, C6, C7 pectoralis major (by communicating with the medial pectoral nerve) -
lateral cord musculocutaneous nerve C5, C6, C7 coracobrachialis, brachialis and biceps brachii becomes the lateral cutaneous nerve of the forearm
lateral cord lateral root of the median nerve C5, C6, C7 fibres to the median nerve -
posterior cord upper subscapular nerve C5, C6 subscapularis (upper part) -
posterior cord thoracodorsal nerve C6, C7, C8 latissimus dorsi -
posterior cord lower subscapular nerve C5, C6 subscapularis (lower part) and teres major -
posterior cord axillary nerve C5, C6 anterior branch: deltoid and a small area of overlying skin
posterior branch: teres minor and deltoid muscles
posterior branch becomes upper lateral cutaneous nerve of the arm
posterior cord radial nerve C5, C6, C7, C8, T1 triceps brachii, supinator, anconeus, the extensor muscles of the forearm, and brachioradialis skin of the posterior arm as the posterior cutaneous nerve of the arm
medial cord medial pectoral nerve C8, T1 pectoralis major and pectoralis minor -
medial cord medial root of the median nerve C8, T1 fibres to the median nerve portions of hand not served by ulnar or radial
medial cord medial cutaneous nerve of the arm C8, T1 - front and medial skin of the arm
medial cord medial cutaneous nerve of the forearm C8, T1 - medial skin of the forearm
medial cord ulnar nerve C8, T1 flexor carpi ulnaris, the medial 2 bellies of flexor digitorum profundus, most of the small muscles of the hand the skin of the medial side of the hand and medial one and a half fingers on the palmar side and medial two and a half fingers on the dorsal side

Additional images

Brachial plexus with areas of roots, truncs, divisions and cords marked.

See also


External links

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