Background: Sciatica without evidence of lumbosacral root compression is often attributed to piriformis syndrome. However, specific diagnostic tools have not been available to demonstrate sciatic nerve entrapment by the piriformis muscle.
Objective: To evaluate the use of magnetic resonance (MR) neurography in identifying abnormalities of the sciatic nerve in patients with unexplained sciatica.
Design: Case series from a retrospective medical record review.
Patients: Fourteen patients with sciatic distribution pain and normal results on MR imaging for lumbosacral radiculopathy were referred for MR neurography of the lumbosacral plexus and sciatic nerves.
Results: In 12 patients, MR neurography demonstrated increased fluid-attenuated inversion recovery signal in the ipsilateral sciatic nerve. In most patients, this abnormal signal was seen at the sciatic notch, at or just inferior to the level of the piriformis muscle. To date, 4 patients have undergone surgical decompression, with excellent relief of symptoms in 3 of them.
Conclusion: Magnetic resonance neurography often identifies an abnormal increased signal in the proximal sciatic nerve in patients with extraspinal sciatica and allows more accurate diagnosis of sciatic nerve entrapment in suspected cases.