Biceps brachii muscle

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 22 Dec 2021

The biceps brachii muscle (also known simply as biceps) is a two-headed muscle in the anterior compartment of the arm that flexes at the elbow and supinates the forearm.

Given the muscle has two proximal tendons (hence its name), there are two origins:

  • the long head originates at the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula before passing laterally through the rotator cuff interval and then inferiorly through the intertubercular (bicipital) groove of the proximal humerus.
  • the short head tendon is much simpler, originating from the apex of the coracoid process of the scapula, lateral to the origin of the coracobrachialis muscle.

The two muscle bellies remain separate until merging in the distal arm above the elbow joint.

The distal insertion of the biceps tendon has two components:

  • a bifid tendon descends onto the posterior margin of the radial tuberosity of the proximal radius which is associated with a small bursa to facilitate supination and pronation.
  • a bicipital aponeurosis (lacertus fibrosus) that arises from the medial aspect of the tendon before it dives deep towards the radial tuberosity. The aponeurosis spans across the brachial artery and median nerve before inserting onto the antebrachial fascia overlying the flexor muscles.

Separate branches from the musculocutaneous nerve (C5,6) supply each muscle belly.

As the muscle has several heads and crosses both the shoulder and elbow joints, the biceps muscle has a variety of actions:

  • with the elbow is extended, biceps solely produces elbow flexion
  • with any degree of elbow flexion, biceps will produce supination with triceps brachii resisting elbow flexion
  • if triceps does not counteract elbow flexion, biceps will produce flewion at both the shoulder and elbow
  • biceps can help initiate shoulder abduction if deltoid is weak or paralyzed

Overall, these complex movements can be summarized as:

  • glenohumeral joint
    • long head: arm abduction
    • short head: arm adduction and flexion
  • elbow joint
    • supination of the pronated forearm
    • flexion of the supinated forearm

Brasseur 5 describes nine individual zones (from proximal to distal) that should be assessed with ultrasound:

  1. glenoid insertion of the long head
  2. extension to the upper pole of the head of the humerus
  3. rotator interval
  4. reflection to the upper bicipital groove
  5. bicipital groove
  6. upper myotendinous junction
  7. lower myotendinous junction
  8. dstal tendon(s)
  9. distal enthesis

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: anterior arm anatomy
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: cubital fossa (diagram)
    Drag here to reorder.
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