OBJECT: There is a paucity of literature regarding the surgical anatomy of the dorsal scapular nerve (DSN). The aim of this study was to elucidate the relationship of this nerve to surrounding anatomical structures. METHODS: Ten formalin-fixed human cadavers (20 sides) were dissected, and measurements made between the DSN and related structures. The nerve pierced the middle scalene muscle at a mean distance of 3 cm from its origin from the cervical spine and was more or less centrally located at this exit site. It lay a mean distance of 1.5 cm medial to the vertebral border of the scapula between the serratus posterior superior, posterior scalene, and levator scapulae muscles. It was found to have a mean distance of 2.5 cm medial to the spinal accessory nerve as it traveled on the anterior border of the trapezius muscle. The nerve intertwined the dorsal scapular artery in all specimens and was found along the anterior border of the rhomboid muscles. On 19 sides the DSN originated solely from the C-5 spinal nerve, and on one side it arose from the C-5 and C-6 spinal nerves. CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of the anatomy of the DSN will aid the surgeon who wishes to explore and decompress this structure.