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Abductor pollicis brevis muscle

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Attachments, innervation and function of the abductor pollicis brevis muscle.
Abductor pollicis brevis muscle (Musculus abductor pollicis brevis)

The thenar muscles are a group comprised of three muscles; abductor pollicis brevis, flexor pollicis brevis, and opponens pollicis. They form an elevation located on the radial (lateral) aspect of the palm, named the thenar eminence.

Abductor pollicis brevis is the most lateral and the most superficial of thenar muscles, located underneath the skin. It runs from the scaphoid and trapezium carpal bones, and from the flexor retinaculum to the proximal phalanx of thumb.

The main function of abductor pollicis brevis is the abduction of the thumb at the carpometacarpal joint.

In this article, we will discuss the anatomy and function of the abductor pollicis brevis muscle.

Key facts about the abductor pollicis brevis muscle
Origin Tubercles of scaphoid and trapezium bones, Flexor retinaculum
Insertion Lateral aspect of base of proximal phalanx 1 (via radial sesamoid bone)
Action Carpometacarpal joint 1: Thumb abduction
Innervation Recurrent branch of median nerve (C8, T1)
Blood supply Superficial palmar branch of radial artery
  1. Origin and insertion
  2. Relations
  3. Innervation
  4. Blood supply
  5. Function
  6. Sources
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Origin and insertion

Abductor pollicis brevis originates from several locations. The majority of muscle fibers originate from the broadest origin area located on flexor retinaculum. Two smaller origins are located on carpal bones; the first is found on the tubercle of scaphoid while the second is on the tubercle of trapezium bone.

After originating from these locations, the muscle fibers form a single muscle belly that runs distally and radially (lateral) towards the thumb. Near the insertion, the muscle ends in a flat tendon that inserts onto the radial aspect of the base of the proximal phalanx of thumb. Lateral slips of the tendon join the expansion of extensor pollicis longus tendon.


Abductor pollicis brevis is a fusiform muscle located at the surface of the thenar eminence, directly superior to opponens pollicis and flexor pollicis brevis muscles. These three muscles comprise a gap through which the thenar branch of median nerve passes. The superficial palmar branch of radial artery runs across the superficial aspect of abductor pollicis brevis.


Abductor pollicis brevis is innervated by the recurrent (thenar) branch of median nerve (root value C8 and T1).

Blood supply

Abductor pollicis brevis is vascularized by the superficial palmar branch that arises from the radial artery.


The main action of abductor pollicis brevis muscle is the abduction of thumb at the carpometacarpal and metacarpophalangeal joints. This action happens in synergy with abductor pollicis longus muscle. Abductor pollicis brevis also facilitates the movement of the thumb towards the fingertips in the carpometacarpal joint (opposition) and flexion in the metacarpophalangeal joint. All of the aforementioned functions of this muscle are of great significance for the proper functioning of the hand, such as grasping round objects or carrying out tasks that demand precision (e.g. writing and sewing).

Test your knowledge on the muscles of the hand with this quiz.

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