Distribution of sensory nerves supplying the knee joint capsule and implications for genicular blockade and radiofrequency ablation: an anatomical study

Surg Radiol Anat. 2019 Dec;41(12):1461-1471. doi: 10.1007/s00276-019-02291-y. Epub 2019 Jul 23.


Background: Despite their emerging therapeutic relevance, there are many discrepancies in anatomical description and terminology of the articular nerves supplying the human knee capsule. This cadaveric study aimed to determine their origin, trajectory, relationship and landmarks for therapeutic purpose.

Methods: We dissected 21 lower limbs from 21 cadavers, to investigate the anatomical distribution of all the articular nerves supplying the knee joint capsule. We identified constant genicular nerves according to their anatomical landmarks at their entering point to knee capsule and inserted Kirschner wires through the nerves in underlying bone at those target points. Measurements were taken, and both antero-posterior and lateral radiographs were obtained.

Results: The nerve to vastus medialis, saphenous nerve, anterior branch of obturator nerve and a branch from sciatic nerve provide substantial innervation to the medial knee capsule and retinaculum. The sciatic nerve and the nerve to the vastus lateralis supply sensory innervation to the supero-lateral aspect of the knee joint while the fibular nerve supplies its infero-lateral quadrant. Tibial nerve and posterior branch of obturator nerve supply posterior aspect of knee capsule. According to our findings, five constant genicular nerves with accurate landmarks could be targeted for therapeutic purpose.

Conclusion: The pattern of distribution of sensitive nerves supplying the knee joint capsule allows accurate and safe targeting of five constant genicular nerves for therapeutic purpose. This study provides robust anatomical foundations for genicular nerve blockade and radiofrequency ablation.

Keywords: Anatomical landmarks; Genicular blockade; Genicular nerve; Knee innervation; Radiofrequency ablation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anatomic Landmarks*
  • Arthralgia / therapy
  • Cadaver
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Dissection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Capsule / diagnostic imaging
  • Joint Capsule / innervation*
  • Joint Capsule / surgery
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / innervation*
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Male
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Obturator Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Peroneal Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / innervation
  • Radiography
  • Sciatic Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional