Coracoid Process: The Lighthouse of the Shoulder
The coracoid process is a hook-shaped bone structure projecting anterolaterally from the superior aspect of the scapular neck. Surgeons often refer to the coracoid process as the “lighthouse of the shoulder” given its proximity to major neurovascular structures such as the brachial plexus and the axillary artery and vein, its role in guiding surgical approaches, and its utility as a landmark for other important structures in the shoulder. The coracoid also serves as a critical anchor for many tendinous and ligamentous attachments. These include the tendons of the pectoralis minor, coracobrachialis, and short head of the biceps brachii muscles, and the coracoclavicular, coracohumeral, coracoacromial, and transverse scapular ligaments. Consequently, the coracoid and its associated structures are linked to numerous shoulder pathologic conditions. This article will detail the anatomy of the coracoid and its associated structures and review the clinical and radiologic findings of corresponding pathologic conditions in this region with original illustrations and multimodality imaging examples. Highlighted in this article are the coracoclavicular joint, the classification and management of coracoid fractures, subcoracoid impingement, the coracoacromial arch and subacromial impingement, the coracohumeral ligament and the biceps pulley, the coracoclavicular ligament and its surgical reconstruction, adhesive capsulitis, the suprascapular notch and suprascapular notch impingement, subcoracoid bursitis, coracoid transfer procedures, and coracoid tumors. A brief summary of the pathophysiology, potential causes, and management options for each of the pathologic entities will also be discussed.