Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 42, Issue 10, pp 1361–1375 | Cite as

The deltoid, a forgotten muscle of the shoulder

  • Thomas MoserEmail author
  • Junie Lecours
  • Johan Michaud
  • Nathalie J. Bureau
  • Raphaël Guillin
  • Étienne Cardinal
Review Article


The deltoid is a fascinating muscle with a significant role in shoulder function. It is comprised of three distinct portions (anterior or clavicular, middle or acromial, and posterior or spinal) and acts mainly as an abductor of the shoulder and stabilizer of the humeral head. Deltoid tears are not infrequently associated with large or massive rotator cuff tears and may further jeopardize shoulder function. A variety of other pathologies may affect the deltoid muscle including enthesitis, calcific tendinitis, myositis, infection, tumors, and chronic avulsion injury. Contracture of the deltoid following repeated intramuscular injections could present with progressive abduction deformity and winging of the scapula. The deltoid muscle and its innervating axillary nerve may be injured during shoulder surgery, which may have disastrous functional consequences. Axillary neuropathies leading to deltoid muscle dysfunction include traumatic injuries, quadrilateral space and Parsonage–Turner syndromes, and cause denervation of the deltoid muscle. Finally, abnormalities of the deltoid may originate from nearby pathologies of subdeltoid bursa, acromion, and distal clavicle.


Deltoid muscle Shoulder Anatomy Tears Nerve injuries 


Financial disclosures

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© ISS 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Moser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Junie Lecours
    • 2
  • Johan Michaud
    • 3
  • Nathalie J. Bureau
    • 1
  • Raphaël Guillin
    • 4
  • Étienne Cardinal
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyCentre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Hôpital Notre-DameMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyCHUS – FleurimontSherbrookeCanada
  3. 3.Department of PhysiatryCentre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Hôpital Notre-DameMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyCHU de RennesRennes Cedex 2France
  5. 5.Radiologie LaënnecVille Mont-RoyalCanada

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