Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 609–615 | Cite as

Early fetal development of the rotator interval region of the shoulder with special reference to topographical relationships among related tendons and ligaments

  • Shinichi AbeEmail author
  • Takuo Nakamura
  • Jose Francisco Rodriguez-Vazquez
  • Gen Murakami
  • Yoshinobu Ide
Original Article



There is a little information on the early fetal development of the rotator interval region of the shoulder, particularly with regard to whether topographical relationships among the ligaments and tendons change during development.


We examined the histological sections (transverse or frontal) of right or left shoulder in 20 mid-term human fetuses (7–15 weeks of gestation).


The biceps tendon had an accompanying bursa-like cavity before the joint cavitation. The bursa for the tendon remained open to the joint cavity until 12 weeks. When reaching the glenoid, the biceps tendon involved and carried mesenchymal tissue around the coracoid process (the future coracohumeral ligament) toward the infraspinatus tendon. Until 10 weeks, the primitive glenohumeral ligament was established as simple collateral ligaments on the inner or humeral side of the rotator cuff tendons and the biceps long tendon. However, the subscapularis tendon crossed, attached to, and reformed the upper structure of the superior glenohumeral ligament.


The early development of the coracohumeral ligament suggests that it is a primitive and basic structure. However, we hypothesize that mechanical demands from the subscapularis tendon and biceps long tendon are likely to change the primitive form of the rotator interval to the adult morphology, including the superior glenohumeral ligament. The significant modification evident during early fetal development suggests that anatomical reconstruction after rotator cuff tears should not be based on the “ideal” anatomy, especially that of the superior glenohumeral ligament, but on individual requirements.

Level of evidence

III or IV (this is my opinion, please choose only 1)


Shoulder joint Rotator interval Biceps long tendon Subscapularis tendon Superior glenohumeral ligament Human fetus 







Biceps brachii muscle


Coracoid process


Deltoideus muscle


Glenoid of the scapula




Pectoralis major muscle


Supraspinatus muscle



This research was supported by Oral Health Science Center Grant hrc8 from Tokyo Dental College, and by a Project for Private Universities: matching fund subsidy from MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) of Japan, 2010–2012. The study was performed in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki 1995 (as revised in Edinburgh 2000). Approval of the study was granted by the University Ethics Committee.

Conflict of interest

We declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shinichi Abe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Takuo Nakamura
    • 3
  • Jose Francisco Rodriguez-Vazquez
    • 4
  • Gen Murakami
    • 5
  • Yoshinobu Ide
    • 2
  1. 1.Oral Health Science Center hrc8Tokyo Dental CollegeChiba CityJapan
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyTokyo Dental CollegeChiba CityJapan
  3. 3.Department of Physical TherapySapporo Medical University, School of Health ScienceSapporoJapan
  4. 4.Department of Anatomy and Embryology II, Faculty of MedicineUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain
  5. 5.Division of Internal MedicineIwamizawa Kojin-kai HospitalIwamizawaJapan

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