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Correlation Among Ultrasound, Cross-Sectional Anatomy, and Histology of the Sciatic Nerve: A Review
  1. Nizar Moayeri, MD, PhD*,,
  2. Geert J. van Geffen, MD, PhD,
  3. Jörgen Bruhn, MD, PhD,
  4. Vincent W. Chan, MD, FRCPC§ and
  5. Gerbrand J. Groen, MD, PhD*
  1. From the *Division of Perioperative Care and Emergency Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology, University Medical Center, Utrecht;
  2. Division of Neuroscience, Department of Neurosurgery, University Medical Center, Utrecht;
  3. Department of Anesthesiology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands; and
  4. §Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Toronto Western Hospital, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  1. Address correspondence to: Gerbrand J. Groen, MD, PhD, Division of Perioperative Care and Emergency Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, L02.502, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584CX Utrecht, the Netherlands (e-mail: g.j.groen{at}


Background and Objectives: Efficient identification of the sciatic nerve (SN) requires a thorough knowledge of its topography in relation to the surrounding structures. Anatomic cross sections in similar oblique planes as observed during SN ultrasonography are lacking. A survey of sonoanatomy matched with ultrasound views of the major SN block sites will be helpful in pattern recognition, especially when combined with images that show the internal architecture of the nerve.

Methods: From 1 cadaver, consecutive parts of the upper leg corresponding to the 4 major blocks sites were sectioned and deeply frozen. Using cryomicrotomy, consecutive transverse sections were acquired and photographed at 78-μm intervals, along with histologic sections at 5-mm intervals. Multiplanar reformatting was done to reconstruct the optimal planes for an accurate comparison of ultrasonography and gross anatomy. The anatomic and histologic images were matched with ultrasound images that were obtained from 2 healthy volunteers.

Results: By simulating the exact position and angulation as in the ultrasonographic images, detailed anatomic overviews of SN and adjacent structures were reconstructed in the gluteal, subgluteal, midfemoral, and popliteal regions. Throughout its trajectory, SN contains numerous fascicles with connective and adipose tissues.

Conclusions: In this study, we provide an optimal matching between histology, anatomic cross sections, and short-axis ultrasound images of SN. Reconstructing ultrasonographic planes with this high-resolution digitized anatomy not only enables an overview but also shows detailed views of the architecture of internal SN. The undulating course of the nerve fascicles within SN may explain its varying echogenic appearance during probe manipulation.

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  • This work should be attributed to the Division of Perioperative Care and Emergency Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.

  • Support was provided by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, the Hague, the Netherlands; grant 017.005.12).