Intercostal nerve

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cross-sectional diagram with the spinal cord, nerve root and nervus intercostalis

The intercostal nerve (dt. " Intercostal nerve ", plural nervi intercostales ; also subcostal nerve , "lower rib nerve") corresponds to the anterior branch ( ramus anterior ) - in animals lower branch ( ramus ventralis ) - of the respective spinal nerve in the thoracic spine area or the Rib cage . The number of intercostal nerves on one side corresponds to the number of spaces between the ribs ( intercostal spaces ). In humans there are eleven on each side that run between the twelve thoracic vertebrae and the associated pairs of ribs . The last nerve running below the 12th rib is called the subcostal nerve . The intercostal nerves supply the intercostal muscles ( muscles intercostales externi and interni ) and the abdominal muscles as well as the sensitive skin in the area of ​​the chest wall and upper abdominal wall. They each run with an artery and a vein at the lower edge (rear edge in animals) of the corresponding rib.

Functional failure

If an individual intercostal nerve is damaged, there are hardly any detectable disturbances, since in particular the sensitive supply areas on the skin overlap with the respectively adjacent segments. The paralysis of the muscles only between two adjacent ribs does not lead to a relevant disruption of breathing .

If several adjacent intercostal nerves fail, the result is a striped numbness of the skin - similar to the position of the ribs - spiraling down the torso ( hypesthesia according to the dermatome ) as well as paralysis of the associated muscles of the chest or abdominal wall.


The term intercostal neuralgia is important . This describes pain in the course of these individual nerves. The nerve pain during and after shingles (herpes zoster) is typical .

The term neuralgia is sometimes used too liberally, as it is often not a nerve pain in the narrower sense, but rather pain projections for nociceptor pain in diseases of bony structures at the same level (in the segment).