The majority of piriformis muscles are innervated by the superior gluteal nerve

Clin Anat. 2019 Mar;32(2):282-286. doi: 10.1002/ca.23311. Epub 2018 Dec 21.


The piriformis muscle is clinically implicated in pain disorders, posterior approaches for total hip arthroplasty, and iatrogenic injury to the muscle and the surrounding nerves. The piriformis muscle has been said to receive innervation from L5 to S3 ventral rami with most sources using S1 and S2 ventral rami as the most common innervation this muscle. However, descriptions of the nerve in the literature are vague. Therefore, the aim of this study was to clarify the anatomy of the nerve supply to the piriformis muscle. Twenty sides from ten fresh-frozen cadavers were studied. Specifically, via anterior dissection of the sacral plexus, branches to the piriformis were identified. Once identified, the nerves to the piriformis muscle were traced proximally to clarify their origin. Nerves supplying the piriformis muscle existed on all sides. On 80% of sides, the piriformis was innervated by two to three nerves. The origin of these nerves was from the superior gluteal nerve on 14 sides (70%), inferior gluteal nerve on one side (5%), L5 ventral ramus on one side (5%), S1 ventral ramus on 17 sides (85%), and S2 ventral ramus on 14 sides (70%), respectively. The most common nerve branches to the piriformis are from the superior gluteal nerve, and the ventral rami of S1 and S2. Based on our study, a single "nerve to piriformis" does not exist in the majority of specimens thus this term should be abandoned. Clin. Anat. 32:282-286, 2019. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: anatomy; cadaver; low back pain; piriformis syndrome; sacral plexus; sacroiliac joint; sciatica.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbosacral Plexus / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Piriformis Muscle Syndrome / etiology
  • Sciatic Nerve / anatomy & histology*