The anatomy of the hip abductor muscles

Clin Anat. 2014 Mar;27(2):241-53. doi: 10.1002/ca.22248. Epub 2013 Apr 27.


The anatomy of the hip abductors has not been comprehensively examined, yet is important to understanding function and pathology in the gluteal region. For example, pathology of the hip abductor muscle-tendon complexes can cause greater trochanteric pain syndrome, and may be associated with gluteal atrophy and fatty infiltration. The purpose of this study was to investigate the detailed morphology of gluteus medius (GMed), gluteus minimus (GMin), and tensor fascia lata (TFL), and determine whether the muscles comprised anatomical compartments. The gluteal region from 12 cadavers was dissected and data collected on attachment sites, volume, fascicular and tendinous anatomy, and innervation. Three sites of GMed origin were identified (gluteal fossa, gluteal aponeurosis, and posteroinferior edge of the iliac crest) and the distal tendon had lateral and posterior parts. GMed was the largest in volume (27.6 ± 11.6 cm(3); GMin 14.1 ± 11.1 cm(3); TFL 1.8 ± 0.8 cm(3)). Fascicles of GMin originated from the gluteal fossa, inserting onto the deep surface of its distal tendon and the hip joint capsule. TFL was encapsulated in the fascia lata, having no bony attachment. Primary innervation patterns varied for GMed, with three or four branches supplying different regions of muscle. Distinct secondary nerve branches entered four regions of GMin; no differential innervation was observed for TFL. On the basis of architectural parameters and innervation, GMed, and GMin each comprise of four compartments but TFL is a homogenous muscle. It is anticipated that these data will be useful for future clinical and functional studies of the hip abductors.

Keywords: anatomy; architecture; gluteal; hip abductor; innervation; muscle.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cadaver
  • Fascia / anatomy & histology
  • Female
  • Hip / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology