Radial neuropathy

Mazen M Dimachkie MD (Dr. Dimachkie, Director of the Neuromuscular Disease Division and Vice Chairman for Research Programs, Department of Neurology, The University of Kansas Medical Center, received honorariums from Baxter, Genzyme, and Pfizer for serving as a guest speaker; consultation fees from Catalyst and Nufactor; and honorariums from Alnylam, CSL-Behring, Malinckrodt, and Novartis for advisory board meetings.)
Randolph W Evans MD, editor. (Dr. Evans of Baylor College of Medicine received honorariums from Allergan and DepoMed for speaking engagements.)
Originally released April 5, 1999; last updated June 20, 2016; expires June 20, 2019

This article includes discussion of radial neuropathy, Saturday night palsy, cheiralgia paresthetica, radial tunnel syndrome, supinator channel syndrome, supinator syndrome, tennis elbow, and Wartenberg syndrome. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.

Overview

In this article, the author reviews the clinical presentation and treatment of radial neuropathies. A systematic literature review indicated that 11.8% of humeral fractures are associated with radial neuropathy. Electromyography and nerve conduction studies play a critical role in assessing radial neuropathies, including their pathophysiology, severity, prognosis, and management.

Historical note and terminology

Lateral elbow pain was first described in 1873 (Runge 1873). A decade later, posterior interosseous nerve entrapment within the supinator muscle was speculated to be the cause of “Lawn tennis arm” (Morris 1882). In 1932, entrapment of the superficial radial nerve was first recognized (Wartenberg 1954). “Saturday night palsy” was felt to be caused by compression of the radial nerve during sleep (Sunderland 1945). During World Wars I and II, shrapnel was the most common cause of injury to the radial nerve (Haymaker and Woodhall 1953).

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