Gemelli-obturator complex in the deep gluteal space: an anatomic and dynamic study

Skeletal Radiol. 2018 Jun;47(6):763-770. doi: 10.1007/s00256-017-2831-2. Epub 2017 Dec 7.


Objective: To investigate the behavior of the sciatic nerve during hip rotation at subgluteal space.

Materials and methods: Sonographic examination (high-resolution ultrasound machine at 5.0-14 MHZ) of the gemelli-obturator internus complex following two approaches: (1) a study on cadavers and (2) a study on healthy volunteers. The cadavers were examined in pronation, pelvis-fixed position by forcing internal and external rotations of the hip with the knee in 90° flexion. Healthy volunteers were examined during passive internal and external hip rotation (prone position; lumbar and pelvic regions fixed). Subjects with a history of major trauma, surgery or pathologies affecting the examined regions were excluded.

Results: The analysis included eight hemipelvis from six fresh cadavers and 31 healthy volunteers. The anatomical study revealed the presence of connective tissue attaching the sciatic nerve to the structures of the gemellus-obturator system at deep subgluteal space. The amplitude of the nerve curvature during rotating position was significantly greater than during resting position. During passive internal rotation, the sciatic nerve of both cadavers and healthy volunteers transformed from a straight structure to a curved structure tethered at two points as the tendon of the obturator internus contracted downwards. Conversely, external hip rotation caused the nerve to relax.

Conclusion: Anatomically, the sciatic nerve is closely related to the gemelli-obturator internus complex. This relationship results in a reproducible dynamic behavior of the sciatic nerve during passive hip rotation, which may contribute to explain the pathological mechanisms of the obturator internal gemellus syndrome.

Keywords: Deep gluteal syndrome; Gemelli-obturator internus complex; Obturator internal gemellus syndrome; Sciatic nerve.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Buttocks / diagnostic imaging*
  • Buttocks / innervation*
  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Obturator Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pelvis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pelvis / innervation*
  • Rotation
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography / methods*