Visualization of the course of the sciatic nerve in adult volunteers by ultrasonography

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2008 Oct;52(9):1298-302. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2008.01695.x.


Background: The sciatic nerve block by the posterior approaches represents one of the more difficult ultrasound-guided nerve blocks. Our clinical experiences with these blocks indicated a point slightly distal to the subgluteal fold as an advantageous position to allow good ultrasonic visibility. In this study, we systematically scanned the sciatic nerve from the subgluteal fold to the popliteal crease, to determine an optimal point for ultrasonographic visualization.

Methods: After institutional approval and written informed consent, we recruited 15 volunteers to visualize the sciatic nerve from the subgluteal fold to the popliteal crease using a linear ultrasound probe in the range of 7-13 MHz. The ultrasonographic visibility of the sciatic nerve, nerve diameter (width and thickness), and skin-to-nerve distance at 20 equidistant points between the subgluteal fold and the popliteal crease were recorded.

Results: The sciatic nerve could be successfully visualized in cross-section as a hyperechoic structure on ultrasound in all volunteers. In the course from subgluteal to the popliteal area, the shape of the sciatic nerve changed from flat to round, while the skin-nerve distance varied with the smallest skin-nerve distances at the popliteal crease and at 5.4 cm (on average) distal to the subgluteal fold. The best ultrasonographic visibility scores were found between 7.2 and 10.8 cm (on average) distal to the gluteal fold.

Conclusion: Between 5.4 and 10.8 cm from the subgluteal fold seems to be the best area to scan the sciatic nerve in terms of superficial nerve position and good ultrasonic visibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography