Retrospective Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2022. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Clin Cases. Sep 26, 2022; 10(27): 9628-9640
Published online Sep 26, 2022. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v10.i27.9628
Anatomy and clinical application of suprascapular nerve to accessory nerve transfer
Jian-Wei Wang, Wen-Bo Zhang, Fan Li, Xuan Fang, Zhi-Qiang Yi, Xiang-Liang Xu, Xin Peng, Wei-Guang Zhang
Jian-Wei Wang, Xuan Fang, Wei-Guang Zhang, Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing 100191, China
Wen-Bo Zhang, Xiang-Liang Xu, Xin Peng, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, National Center of Stomatology and National Clinical Research Center for Oral Diseases and National Engineering Research Center of Oral Biomaterials and Digital Medical Devices, Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology, Beijing 100081, China
Fan Li, Department of Stomatology, Beijing Haidian Hospital, Beijing 100081, China
Zhi-Qiang Yi, Department of Neurosurgery, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing 100034, China
Author contributions: Xu XL and Wang JW were the main performers of the research and completed the manuscript writing; Xu XL were also responsible for the overall project coordination; Zhang WB, Li F and Peng X participated in the investigation and surgery; Fang X participated in the image design; and Yi ZQ and Zhang WG participated in the method research.
Supported by Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, No. Z201100005520055; and Education Research Project of Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology, No. 2013-ZD-03.
Institutional review board statement: This study was approved by the Peking University Institutional Review Board (No. IRB00001052-21011-Exempt). Clinical practice was approved by the Biomedical Ethics Committee of Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology (No. PKUSSIRB-2013040).
Informed consent statement: Informed written consent was obtained from the patient.
Conflict-of-interest statement: All authors report no relevant conflict of interest for this article.
Data sharing statement: The data is available from the corresponding author at
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Xiang-Liang Xu, PhD, Doctor, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, National Center of Stomatology and National Clinical Research Center for Oral Diseases and National Engineering Research Center of Oral Biomaterials and Digital Medical Devices, Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology, No. 22 Zhongguancun Nandajie, Haidian District, Beijing 100081, China.
Received: April 6, 2022
Peer-review started: April 6, 2022
First decision: June 16, 2022
Revised: June 30, 2022
Accepted: August 21, 2022
Article in press: August 21, 2022
Published online: September 26, 2022
Processing time: 162 Days and 23.3 Hours

Loss of motor function in the trapezius muscle is one complication of radical neck dissection after cutting the accessory nerve (AN) during surgery. Nerve repair is an effective method to restore trapezius muscle function, and includes neurolysis, direct suture, and nerve grafting. The suprascapular nerve (SCN) and AN are next to each other in position. The function of the AN and SCN in shoulder elevation and abduction movement is synergistic. SCN might be considered by surgeons for AN reanimation.


To obtain anatomical and clinical data for partial suprascapular nerve-to-AN transfer.


Ten sides of cadavers perfused with formalin were obtained from the Department of Human Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Peking University Health Science Center. The SCN (n = 10) and AN (n = 10) were carefully dissected in the posterior triangle of the neck, and the trapezius muscle was dissected to fully display the accessory nerve. The length of the SCN from the origin of the brachial plexus (a point) to the scapular notch (b point) and the distance of the SCN from the origin point (a point) to the point (c point) where the AN entered the border of the trapezius muscle were measured. The length and branches of the AN in the trapezius muscle were measured. A female patient aged 55 years underwent surgery for partial SCN to AN transfer at Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology. The patient suffered from recurrent upper gingival cancer. Radical neck dissection was performed on the right side, and the right AN was removed at the intersection between the nerve and the posterior border of the SCM muscle. One-third of the diameter of the SCN was cut off, and combined epineurial and perineurial sutures were applied between the distal end of the cut-off fascicles of the SCN and the proximal end of the AN without tension. Both subjective and objective evaluations were performed before, three months after, and nine months after surgery. For the subjective evaluation, the questionnaire included the Neck Dissection Impairment Index (NDII) and the Constant Shoulder Scale. Electromyography was used for the objective examination. Data were analyzed using t tests with SPSS 19.0 software to determine the relationship between the length of the SCN and the linear distance. A P value of < 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.


The whole length of the AN in the trapezius muscle was 16.89 cm. The average numbers of branches distributed in the descending, horizontal and ascending portions were 3.8, 2.6 and 2.2, respectively. The diameter of the AN was 1.94 mm at the anterior border of the trapezius. The length of the suprascapular nerve from the origin of the brachial plexus to the scapular notch was longer than the distance of the suprascapular nerve from the origin point to the point where the accessory nerve entered the upper edge of the trapezius muscle. The amplitude of trapezius muscle electromyography indicated that both the horizontal and ascending portions of the trapezius muscle on the right side had better function than the left side nine months after surgery. The results showed that the right-sided supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles did not lose more function than the left side.


Based on anatomical data and clinical application, partial suprascapular nerve-to-AN transfer could be achieved and may improve innervation of the affected trapezius muscle after radical neck dissection.

Keywords: Suprascapular nerve, Accessory nerve, Nerve transfer, Trapezius, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus

Core Tip: We performed the dissection and measurement of ten sides of cadavers to obtain the data of the suprascapular nerve and accessory nerve. In the posterior cervical triangle, we found that the suprascapular nerve could obtain enough nerve length, from its origin to the suprascapular notch, to perform suprascapular nerve-accessory nerve partial nerve transplantation and achieve tension-free suture, suggesting the feasibility of transplantation of the suprascapular nerve as a donor. Nerve transfer from the partial suprascapular nerve to the accessory nerve was performed on one patient, and electromyography examinations were performed three months and nine months after surgery. Our research showed that suprascapular nerve transfer may improve trapezius muscle function and reduce loss of function in the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles after suprascapular nerve transfer.