The humeral head: A review of the blood supply and possible link to osteonecrosis following rotator cuff repair

Natalie Keough, Dietrich E. Lorke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Trauma, corticosteroid therapy and metabolic diseases are well established aetiologies of humeral head osteonecrosis; however, there is increasing evidence that arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery may be another possible cause. One of the reasons is that there may be inadvertent damage to the arterial blood supply to the humeral head during surgical intervention. The blood supply to the humeral head displays large amounts of variation with regard to origin, course and distribution. Therefore, to shed light on the pathogenesis, the blood supply of the humeral head is reviewed together with a summary of all reported cases of osteonecrosis of the humeral head that occurred following rotator cuff repair. Inconsistencies with regard to terminologies used and contradictions concerning arterial contributions from the anterior circumflex humeral artery and the posterior circumflex humeral artery towards humeral head supply are addressed. Moreover, variations in the course of the anterior circumflex humeral artery and its branches are summarized. The vascular anatomy of the humeral head is clinically relevant due to the close relationship of these blood vessels with the surgical repair sites for rotator cuff surgery and biceps tenotomies or tenodesis procedures. Potential sites of disruption of blood supply following arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery are discussed. Detailed knowledge of the course of the arteries supplying the humeral head may help to minimize the risk of vascular injury and subsequent osteonecrosis. Given the great interindividual variations of vascular anatomy, imaging procedures preceding arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery may be advisable.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)973-982
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Volume239
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • anterior circumflex humeral artery
  • arcuate artery
  • arthroscopy
  • biceps tendon
  • osteonecrosis
  • shoulder joint
  • variations

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