Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 259–269 | Cite as

A comprehensive review of motor innervation of the hand: variations and clinical significance

  • Sacha Wynter
  • Lakal Dissabandara



The objective of the present review is to assemble the recognized anatomical variations, classifications, and clinical evidence with regard to innervation of the hand and discuss the clinical significance of these variations.


The material for this review was obtained by exploring PubMed and Google Scholar (search terms: hand innervation, variations of ulnar nerve, variations of median nerve, variations of radial nerve) as well as from standard anatomy texts. This initial search returned approximately 300 articles, which was reduced by abstract or title review. Reviewing the reference lists of significant papers uncovered further studies missed in the initial search. A few standard anatomy texts were also consulted for normal anatomy.


The median and ulnar nerves frequently display a number of significant deviations from the traditionally taught branching patterns. The traditionally taught innervation of the hand is also found to be highly variable. This is especially evident with regard to the motor innervation of thenar muscles. These variations may be explained by the often under-recognized anastomoses that exist in the hand, such as the motor Riche–Cannieu Anastomosis. Some of these variations are associated significant clinical consequences.


The median and ulnar nerves display many anatomical variations, often with significant clinical implications. Awareness about these variations is clinically important when interpreting clinical examination findings, electrophysiological and radiological investigation as well as during management of patients in terms of surgical and anesthetic procedures.


Hand Innervation Variations Median Ulnar 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag France SAS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MedicineGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia

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