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Deltoid Muscle

Contents

Anatomy and Innervation

The deltoid muscle is a large and powerful muscle of the shoulder joint. It distinctively shapes the surface anatomy of the shoulder and this muscle is supplied by the axillary nerve, a branch of the brachial plexus.

Deltoid muscle - ventral view

Deltoid muscle - ventral view

The deltoid has three parts, each with their own origin:

Together they all insert laterally at the humeral shaft into the deltoid tuberosity. In its course, the muscle lies in close relation to the cephalic vein which runs in the deltopectoral groove between the deltoid and pectoralis major muscle becoming the axillary vein.

Axillary nerve - ventral view

Axillary nerve - ventral view

Function

The deltoid moves and stabilizes the shoulder joint. The movements of the different deltoid parts can interact both synergistically and antagonistically depending on the specific part and the position of the humerus. The deltoid is the most important abductor of the shoulder joint.

Recommended video: Deltoid muscle
The deltoid muscle is a large and powerful muscle of the shoulder joint. On this video, we will explore the attachment points, innervation and functions of the deltoid.

The abduction is mainly initiated and held by the acromial part. Both the clavicular and spinal parts function as adductors up to 60° and abductors over 60°. Furthermore the clavicular part causes an inward rotation and anteversion, the spinal part an outward rotation and retroversion.

Clinical Aspects

An axillary nerve injury may lead to paralysis of the deltoid muscle. The affected patients typically show a clinical picture of an atrophic shoulder in comparison to the healthy side.

Another classic sign is the acromion standing out prominently (“scaphoid sign”). Even though the limitations of movement are partly compensated by the other shoulder muscles especially the abduction and outward rotation become tremendously difficult. Isolated lesions of the axillary nerve occur rarely. More common are injuries due to a dislocated shoulder or proximal humerus fracture.

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Show references

References:

  • D. Drenckhahn/J. Waschke: Taschenbuch Anatomie, 1.Auflage, Urban & Fischer Verlag/Elsevier (2008), S.33
  • M. Schünke/E. Schulte/U. Schumacher: Prometheus – LernAtlas der Anatomie – Allgemeine Anatomie und Bewegungssystem, 2.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2007), S.298-299, 372
  • G. D. Giacomo et. al.: Atlas of Functional Shoulder Anatomy, 1.Auflage, Springer-Verlag Italia (2008), S.62-68
  • E. G. McFarland: Examination of the Shoulder, 1.Auflage, Thieme Verlag (2006), S.107-110
  • D. H. Johnson/R. A. Pedowitz: Practical Orthopaedic Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy, 1.Auflage, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (2006), S.121-124

Author & Layout:

  • Achudhan Karunaharamoorthy
  • Christopher A. Becker

Illustrators:

  • Deltoid muscle - ventral view - Yousun Koh
  • Axillary nerve - ventral view - Yousun Koh
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

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