Anatomic variability of the ilioinguinal and genitofemoral nerve: implications for the treatment of groin pain

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Nov;108(6):1618-23. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200111000-00029.


The differential diagnosis of groin pain must consider problems of the ilioinguinal and/or genitofemoral nerve. These nerves may become injured during hernia surgery or lower quadrant surgical procedures. To treat injury to these nerves, it is critical to understand their anatomic variability. In the present study the pattern of cutaneous nerve branches in the inguinal region was investigated through dissection in 64 halves of 32 human embalmed anatomic specimens. In contrast to usual textual descriptions, four different types of cutaneous branching patterns are identified: type A, with a dominance of genitofemoral nerve in the scrotal/labial and the ventromedial thigh region. In type A, the ilioinguinal nerve gives no sensory contribution to these regions (43.7 percent). In type B, with a dominance of ilioinguinal nerve, the genitofemoral nerve shares a branch with the ilioinguinal and gives motor fibers to cremaster muscle in the inguinal canal, but has no sensory branch to the groin (28.1 percent). In type C, with a dominance of genitofemoral nerve, the ilioinguinal nerve has sensory branches to the mons pubis and inguinal crease together with an anteroproximal part of the root of the penis or labia majora. The nerve was found to share a branch with the iliohypogastric nerve (20.3 percent). In type D, cutaneous branches emerge from both the ilioinguinal and the genitofemoral nerves. Additionally, the ilioinguinal nerve innervates the mons pubis and inguinal crease together with a very anteroproximal part of the root of the penis or labia majora (7.8 percent). The described patterns of innervation were bilaterally symmetric in 40.6 percent of the cadavers. The anatomic variability of both nerves has implications for all surgeons operating in the groin region and for those caring for the patient with groin pain.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Groin / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Inguinal Canal / innervation
  • Intraoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain Management
  • Penis / innervation
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries
  • Peripheral Nerves / anatomy & histology
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Scrotum / innervation
  • Skin / innervation
  • Vulva / innervation