Radial Tunnel Syndrome: Emphasis on the Superficial Branch of the Radial Nerve

Author(s): Bolster MAJ, Bakker XR

Source: J Hand Surg 34E:343-347, 2009.


The authors report their results with decompression of the superficial branch of the radial nerve in the treatment of radial tunnel syndrome in 12 patients.  Through a brachioradialis muscle splitting approach, the sensory branch of the radial was decompressed over a distance of 20 cm from the elbow crease, dividing of 2 or 3 distinct fibrous bands: the posterior interosseous nerve was left undisturbed.  At a mean of 10 months after surgery (range 1.5 to 20 months), there was improvement in arm and hand function as measured by a visual analog scale in all cases.  Eleven patients were satisfied with the results of the procedure. 
The cause of radial tunnel syndrome is thought to be compression of the posterior interosseous nerve.  However, pain often develops in the absence of positive electrodiagnostic study findings and compression of the posterior interosseous nerve compression is not always evident at the time of surgery.  The authors of this study contend that radial tunnel syndrome may be attributed to compression of the superficial branch of the radial nerve.