Surgical anatomy of the superior gluteal nerve and landmarks for its localization during minimally invasive approaches to the hip


Correspondence to: Nihal Apaydin, Department of Anatomy, Ankara University Faculty of Medicine, 06100 Sihhiye, Ankara, Turkey. E-mail:


The superior gluteal nerve (SGN) is vulnerable to damage during total hip arthroplasty and various pelvic surgeries. Recently introduced minimally invasive approaches to the hip show promise for less muscle trauma compared to conventional approaches. However, the risk of damaging the SGN has not been well documented for such alternative approaches. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the anatomic course of the SGN and to define anatomical landmarks that may be used by surgeons during minimally invasive approaches to the hip. Twenty-eight gluteal regions from 14 formalin-fixed cadavers were dissected and the course and the distances of the SGN and its branches to the tip of the greater trochanter (GT) were measured. The landmarks for standardizing the course of the SGN included the posterior inferior iliac spine (PIIS), GT, and a line (PIIS-GT) connecting these two points. The exit of the SGN was found to be at the medial one third of the PIIS-GT line and 5.4 cm from the GT. Two branching patterns were noted. The branches of the SGN were distributed lateral to the PIIS-GT line. On the basis of our study, the safe zone for the SGN was smaller than previously reported. Posterior, lateral, or anterolateral minimally invasive approaches to the hip should take into account the point of exit of the SGN and the area of distribution of its branches. A minimally invasive anterolateral approach may particularly compromise branches to the tensor fasciae latae muscle. Localization of the SGN and its branches using the anatomic landmarks defined in this study may decrease surgical morbidity. Clin. Anat. 26:614–620, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.