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Keywords:

  • inferior rectal nerve;
  • pudendal nerve;
  • sacrospinous ligament

Abstract

The pudendal nerve (S3–S5) is a major branch of the sacral plexus. After branching from the sacral plexus, the pudendal nerve travels through three main regions: the gluteal region, the pudendal canal, and the perineum. In the gluteal region, the pudendal nerve lies posterior to the sacrospinous ligament. The relationship of the pudendal nerve to the sacrospinous ligament has important clinical ramifications, but there is a lack of literature examining the variations in pudendal nerve anatomy in the gluteal region. This study investigates the pudendal nerve trunking in relation to the sacrospinous ligament in 37 cadavers (73 sides of pelves) of 21 males and 16 females, ranging from 18–83 years of age. Pudendal nerve trunking could be grouped into five types: Type I is defined as one-trunked (41/73; 56.2%), Type II is two-trunked (8/73; 11%), Type III is two-trunked with one trunk as an inferior rectal nerve piercing through the sacrospinous ligament (8/73; 11%), Type IV is two-trunked with one as an inferior rectal nerve not piercing through the sacrospinous ligament (7/73; 9.5%), and Type V is three-trunked (9/73; 12.3%). In summary, 56.2% of pudendal nerves adjacent to the sacrospinous ligament were one-trunked, 31.5% were two-trunked and 12.3% were three-trunked. Fifteen inferior rectal nerves originated independently from the S4 root and never joined the main pudendal nerve. Eight of fifteen inferior rectal nerves pierced through the sacrospinous ligament, perhaps making it prone for entrapment. We measured the average diameter of the main trunk of the pudendal nerve to be 4.67 ± 1.17 mm. We also measured the average length of the pudendal nerve trunks before terminal branching to be 25.14 ± 10.29 mm. There was no significant statistical difference in the average length, average diameter, number of trunks, and pudendal nerve variations between male and female or right or left sides of the pelves. A detailed study of pudendal nerve trunking in relationship to the sacrospinous ligament would be useful for instruction in basic anatomy courses and in relevant clinical settings as well. Clin. Anat. 18:200–205, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.