Cutaneous Branch of the Obturator Nerve Extending to the Medial Ankle and Foot: A Report of Two Cadaveric Cases

Brittany Staples, Edward Ennedy, Tae Kim, Steven Nguyen, Andrew Shore, Thomas Vu, Jonathan Labovitz, Mathew Wedel
Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery 2019 July 17
The area of skin supplied by the cutaneous branch of the obturator nerve (CBO) is highly variable. Although most introductory anatomy texts describe the CBO as innervating only a portion of the medial thigh, there are numerous reports in the literature of CBOs passing the knee to innervate the proximal, middle, or even distal leg. There are no previous reports of CBOs extending to the ankle and foot. Herein we describe 2 cases of CBOs extending at least to the medial foot. Both cases were discovered incidentally, during routine cadaver dissections by osteopathic and podiatric medical students in the anatomy laboratory of Western University of Health Sciences in California. In both instances, the anomalously long CBOs shared several characteristics: (1) they arose as direct branches of the anterior division of the obturator nerve, not from the subsartorial plexus; (2) they coursed immediately posterior to the great saphenous vein from the distal thigh to the distal leg, only deviating away from the saphenous vein just above the medial malleolus; and (3) they terminated in radiating fibers to the posterior half of the medial ankle and foot. In both cases, the saphenous branch of the femoral nerve was present but restricted to the area anterior to the great saphenous vein. It is likely that the variant CBOs carried fibers of the L4 spinal nerve and thus provided cutaneous innervation to the medial foot and ankle, a function most commonly reserved for the saphenous branch of the femoral nerve distal to the knee. Saphenous neuropathy is a common postoperative complication of saphenous cutdowns for coronary artery bypass grafts, so the potential involvement of a long CBO can add additional complexity to regional anesthetic blocks for foot and ankle surgery and procedures such as vein harvesting for coronary artery bypass grafts.

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