Journal of the Anatomical Society of India

: 2021  |  Volume : 70  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 264--265

The extensor digitorum profundus muscle – An attractive term, but is it appropriate for describing the human hand?

Georgi P Georgiev1, R Shane Tubbs2,  
1 Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, University Hospital Queen Giovanna-ISUL, Medical University of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria
2 Department of Anatomical Sciences, St. George's University, Grenada, Caribbean; Department of Neurosurgery; Department of Neurology; Structural and Cellular Biology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Georgi P Georgiev
Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, University Hospital Queen Giovanna – ISUL, Medical University of Sofia, 8, Bialo More Str., BG 1527 Sofia


In general, when a particular term in medicine is used, it should be correct and precise. Human anatomy is an old science and has developed over the years with various and numerous terms and classifications being used. Their role is to present and summarize the described findings, simply and understandably, not only to the anatomist but also to the clinicians. The goal of our comments is to present our point of view about a term, used for a variant hand muscle, called the extensor digitorum profundus; it was first mentioned in the hands of primates but since has been used by some to describe human anatomy. We discuss why such use of the term in humans is incorrect and should be limited to various animals.

How to cite this article:
Georgiev GP, Tubbs R S. The extensor digitorum profundus muscle – An attractive term, but is it appropriate for describing the human hand?.J Anat Soc India 2021;70:264-265

How to cite this URL:
Georgiev GP, Tubbs R S. The extensor digitorum profundus muscle – An attractive term, but is it appropriate for describing the human hand?. J Anat Soc India [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 25 ];70:264-265
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Full Text

The anatomy of the hand is important to many including anatomists and hand surgeons. The unique anatomy of the human hand has culminated in the perfection needed for use by mankind and is exemplified in musicians, sculptors, painters, and surgeons. The anatomy of the hand is well known as well as its anatomical variations. However, anatomical terminology must be precise and clear when describing anatomical variations. In addition, terms should not be confusing. When determining a term for a variant muscle, three important things should be considered: (1) The precise location; (2) its exact origin and insertions; and (3) Its potential function.

Herein, our goal is to discuss and clarify the terminology used for a muscle of the upper limb that, in our opinion, has been wrongly named. The term extensor digitorum profundus (EDP) describes a variant dorsal muscle of the hand including the extensor indicis proprius (EIP) muscle and/or the extensor pollicis longus (EPL) muscle.[1],[2],[3]

Why is the term EDP inappropriate? (1) the EDP includes a muscle complex assigned to the ulno-carpal series of the antebrachio-manual muscles of primates.[4] However, Novikova and Panyutina[5] stated that in mammals, the EDP complex consists of m. EPL, m. extensor digiti secondi (extensor indicis muscle), and m. extensor digitorum lateralis (extensor digitorum muscle); (2) if the term EDP is accepted as another deep muscle similar to the finger flexors (superficial and deep) of the anterior forearm, it should have a different function compared to the flexor digitorum profundus muscle. Although based on reports in the literature, the EDP does not have another function; this muscle describes a variant of the EIP or EPL; (3) presentation of this term, in our opinion, might confuse the muscle terminology used by clinical anatomists and especially, hand surgeons.

When a term for an anatomical structure is used it has to describe and present the structure clearly as well as its function. In our opinion, the term EDP used for human hand anatomy, as a variant of the EIP or EPL might mislead clinicians and researchers so that future communications are misconveyed and a true understanding of such muscles in the human hand are not fully understood.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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