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Anatomical study of the innervation of posterior knee joint capsule: implication for image-guided intervention
  1. John Tran1,
  2. Philip W H Peng2,
  3. Michael Gofeld2,
  4. Vincent Chan2 and
  5. Anne M R Agur1
  1. 1 Division of Anatomy, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Anesthesia, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Philip W H Peng, Department of Anesthesia, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5T 2S8, Canada; philip.peng{at}


Background and objectives Peripheral nerve block is an important component of the multimodal analgesia for total knee arthroplasty. Novel interventional techniques of ultrasound-guided nerve block supplying the posterior knee joint capsule require knowledge of the innervation of the posterior capsule. The objectives of this cadaveric study were to determine the course, frequency, and distribution of the articular branches innervating the posterior knee joint capsule and their relationships to anatomical landmarks.

Methods Fifteen lightly embalmed specimens were meticulously dissected. The origin of articular branches was identified, their frequency recorded, and the course documented in relation to anatomical landmarks. The capsular distribution of articular branches was documented and a frequency map generated.

Results In all specimens, articular branches from the posterior division of the obturator and tibial nerves were found to supply the posterior capsule. Additionally, articular branches from common fibular nerve and sciatic nerve were found in eight (53%) and three (20%) specimens, respectively. The capsular distribution of tibial nerve spanned the entire posterior capsule. The posterior division of obturator nerve supplied the superomedial aspect of the posterior capsule overlapping with the tibial nerve. The superolateral aspect of the posterior capsule was innervated by the tibial nerve and, when present, the common fibular/sciatic nerves.

Conclusions Frequency map of the course and distribution of the articular branches and their relationship to anatomical landmarks form an anatomical basis for peripheral nerve block approaches that provide analgesia to the posterior knee joint capsule.

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  • Competing interests PWHP received equipment support from Sonosite Fujifilm Canada. VC has received honorarium from Aspen Pharma, BBraun, Smiths Medical, and SonoSite.

  • Ethics approval Approval was received from the University of Toronto Health Sciences Research Ethics Board (approval no. 27210).