Thoracic percutaneous facet denervation has been employed for the treatment of thoracic zygapophysial joint pain. But the surgical anatomy of this procedure has been assumed to be the same as for lumbar medial branch neurotomy. To establish the anatomical basis for thoracic medial branch neurotomy, an anatomical study was undertaken. Using an X40 dissecting microscope, a total of 84 medial branches from 7 sides of 4 embalmed human adult cadavers were studied.
The medial branches of the thoracic dorsal rami were found to assume a reasonably constant course. Upon leaving the intertransverse space, they typically crossed the superolateral corners of the transverse processes and then passed medially and inferiorly across the posterior surfaces of the transverse processes before ramifying into the multifidus muscles. Exceptions to this pattern occurred at mid-thoracic levels (T5–T8). Although the curved course remained essentially the same, the inflection occurred at a point superior to the superolateral corner of the transverse process.
At no time during the dissection were nerves encountered crossing the junctions between the superior articular processes and transverse processes which have been the target points advocated for thoracic facet denervation. Rather, the results of this study indicate that the superolateral corners of the transverse processes are more accurate target points.