Topographic variations of the relationship of the sciatic nerve and the piriformis muscle and its relevance to palsy after total hip arthroplasty

Surg Radiol Anat. 2006 Mar;28(1):88-91. doi: 10.1007/s00276-005-0056-x. Epub 2005 Nov 26.


The aim of this paper was to study the anatomical relationship between the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve with regard to the possibility of neurological deficit after THA. The incidence of anatomical variation of both structures is 15-30% in the literature. The authors studied 91 cadavers and found an atypical relationship in 19 cases (20.9%). In this study individual variations were found with the following frequency: The sciatic nerve exits below the piriformis muscle in 79.1% of the cases. The sciatic nerve separates into two divisions above the piriformis, one branch passing through the muscle, the other below it (14.3%). An unsplit nerve passes through the piriformis muscle in 2.2%. The nerve separates into two divisions above the piriformis, one branch exiting above the muscle and passing along its dorsal aspect, the second exiting distally below the muscle in 4.4%. The most common reasons for sciatic nerve injury in surgery of the hip joint are direct injuries, ischemia of the nerve tissue, compression or excessive distraction of the nerve, compression by bone cement, thermal damage during cement polymerization, injury during THA dislocation, compression by hematoma, bone prominence or an implanted acetabular component. According to the presented anatomical study, overstretching of the nerve itself or its branches in the area of the pelvitrochanteric muscles after their release from their origin can be another mechanism. Such overstretching can appear in the presence of some of the aforementioned anatomical variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip*
  • Buttocks*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Paralysis / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Sciatic Nerve / anatomy & histology*