Anatomical variations between the sciatic nerve and the piriformis muscle: a contribution to surgical anatomy in piriformis syndrome

Konstantinos Natsis, Trifon Totlis, George A Konstantinidis, George Paraskevas, Maria Piagkou, Juergen Koebke
Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy: SRA 2014, 36 (3): 273-80

PURPOSE: To detect the variable relationship between sciatic nerve and piriformis muscle and make surgeons aware of certain anatomical features of each variation that may be useful for the surgical treatment of the piriformis syndrome.

METHODS: The gluteal region of 147 Caucasian cadavers (294 limbs) was dissected. The anatomical relationship between the sciatic nerve and the piriformis muscle was recorded and classified according to the Beaton and Anson classification. The literature was reviewed to summarize the incidence of each variation.

RESULTS: The sciatic nerve and piriformis muscle relationship followed the typical anatomical pattern in 275 limbs (93.6 %). In 12 limbs (4.1 %) the common peroneal nerve passed through and the tibial nerve below a double piriformis. In one limb (0.3 %) the common peroneal nerve coursed superior and the tibial nerve below the piriformis. In one limb (0.3 %) both nerves penetrated the piriformis. In one limb (0.3 %) both nerves passed above the piriformis. Four limbs (1.4 %) presented non-classified anatomical variations. When a double piriformis muscle was present, two different arrangements of the two heads were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Anatomical variations of the sciatic nerve around the piriformis muscle were present in 6.4 % of the limbs examined. When dissection of the entire piriformis is necessary for adequate sciatic nerve decompression, the surgeon should explore for the possible existence of a second tendon, which may be found either inferior or deep to the first one. Some rare, unclassified variations of the sciatic nerve should be expected during surgical intervention of the region.

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