Correlation among ultrasound, cross-sectional anatomy, and histology of the sciatic nerve: a review

Reg Anesth Pain Med. Sep-Oct 2010;35(5):442-9. doi: 10.1097/AAP.0b013e3181ef4cab.


Background and objectives: Efficient identification of the sciatic nerve (SN) requires a thorough knowledge of its topography in relation to the surrounding structures. Anatomic cross sections in similar oblique planes as observed during SN ultrasonography are lacking. A survey of sonoanatomy matched with ultrasound views of the major SN block sites will be helpful in pattern recognition, especially when combined with images that show the internal architecture of the nerve.

Methods: From 1 cadaver, consecutive parts of the upper leg corresponding to the 4 major blocks sites were sectioned and deeply frozen. Using cryomicrotomy, consecutive transverse sections were acquired and photographed at 78-microm intervals, along with histologic sections at 5-mm intervals. Multiplanar reformatting was done to reconstruct the optimal planes for an accurate comparison of ultrasonography and gross anatomy. The anatomic and histologic images were matched with ultrasound images that were obtained from 2 healthy volunteers.

Results: By simulating the exact position and angulation as in the ultrasonographic images, detailed anatomic overviews of SN and adjacent structures were reconstructed in the gluteal, subgluteal, midfemoral, and popliteal regions. Throughout its trajectory, SN contains numerous fascicles with connective and adipose tissues.

Conclusions: In this study, we provide an optimal matching between histology, anatomic cross sections, and short-axis ultrasound images of SN. Reconstructing ultrasonographic planes with this high-resolution digitized anatomy not only enables an overview but also shows detailed views of the architecture of internal SN. The undulating course of the nerve fascicles within SN may explain its varying echogenic appearance during probe manipulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buttocks / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Sciatic Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Sciatic Nerve / cytology
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography