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      Anatomical etiology of “pseudo-sciatica” from superior cluneal nerve entrapment: a laboratory investigation

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          The superior cluneal nerve (SCN) may become entrapped where it pierces the thoracolumbar fascia over the iliac crest; this can cause low back pain (LBP) and referred pain radiating into the posterior thigh, calf, and occasionally the foot, producing the condition known as “pseudo-sciatica.” Because the SCN was thought to be a cutaneous branch of the lumbar dorsal rami, originating from the dorsal roots of L1–L3, previous anatomical studies failed to explain why SCN causes “pseudo-sciatica”. The purpose of the present anatomical study was to better elucidate the anatomy and improve the understanding of “pseudo-sciatica” from SCN entrapment.

          Materials and methods

          SCN branches were dissected from their origin to termination in subcutaneous tissue in 16 cadavers (5 male and 11 female) with a mean death age of 88 years (range 81–101 years). Special attention was paid to identify SCNs from their emergence from nerve roots and passage through the fascial attachment to the iliac crest.


          Eighty-one SCN branches were identified originating from T12 to L5 nerve roots with 13 branches passing through the osteofibrous tunnel. These 13 branches originated from L3 (two sides), L4 (six sides), and L5 (five sides). Ten of the 13 branches showed macroscopic entrapment in the tunnel.


          The majority of SCNs at risk of nerve entrapment originated from the lower lumbar nerve. These anatomical results may explain why patients with SCN entrapment often evince leg pain or tingling that mimics sciatica.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Iliac crest bone graft harvest donor site morbidity. A statistical evaluation.

          This study analyzed the cause, rate, and risk factors of iliac crest bone graft donor site morbidity. All complications or problems, no matter how small, were sought to develop strategies of prevention. A wide range of major, 0.76% (Keller et al) to 25% (Summers et al) and minor complications, 9.4% (Keller et al) to 24% (Summers et al) has been reported. A consecutive series of 261 patients, whose bone graft harvest was done by one surgeon, was studied by chart review and a mail survey that was not conducted by the operating surgeon. The survey presented specific open-ended questions designed to uncover any complication/problem, no matter how small. Complications then were categorized as major or minor and subcategorized as acute or chronic. Statistical analysis was done using chi-squared and multiple logistical regression. None of the 261 patients had a severe perioperative complication--e.g., superior gluteal artery injury, sciatic nerve injury, or deep wound infection. None of the 225 patients with long term follow-up (average, 66 months; range, 32-105 months) had a severe late complication--e.g., donor site herniation, meralgia paresthetica, pelvic instability, or fracture. Of the 180 patients meeting the qualifications for statistical analysis, major complications occurred in 18 (10%), only three of which affected function (pain). Minor complications occurred in 70 (39%). The results indicated that severe complications from iliac crest bone graft harvest can be avoided and major complications affecting functioning are uncommon, but minor complications are common. The findings suggest that procedural refinements of limiting subcutaneous dissection and providing layered tension-free incision closure may improve results.
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            Harvesting autogenous iliac bone grafts. A review of complications and techniques.

            Autogenous bone grafts from the ilium are frequently harvested for purposes of bone union and/or stability. Although some donor site complications may be unavoidable, awareness of the anatomy and complications may aid in planning the approach and minimizing the risks. Documented donor site complications include pain, nerve and arterial injury, peritoneal perforation, sacroiliac joint instability, and herniation of abdominal contents through defects in the ilium. Strict observation of relevant anatomic considerations will help in avoiding these complications.
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              Chronic donor site pain complicating bone graft harvesting from the posterior iliac crest for spinal fusion.

              To explore the relationship between surgical approach and chronic posterior iliac crest donor site pain, 151 bone graft harvests with follow-up periods longer than 1 year were evaluated using a detailed questionnaire and follow-up clinical visits. There was no difference in the incidence of chronic donor site pain between harvests performed through the primary midline incision versus a separate lateral oblique incision (28 vs 31%). Twice as many donor sites harvested for reconstructive spinal procedures were reported as having chronic pain as compared with those harvested for spinal trauma, regardless of approach used (39 vs 18%). The association of chronic donor site pain with residual back pain was also greater in the spinal reconstructive group. Thus, it appears that incidence of chronic donor site pain is more dependent on diagnosis than on surgical approach.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                01 November 2017
                : 10
                : 2539-2545
                [1 ]Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine
                [2 ]Department of Spine & Spinal Cord Surgery, Yokohama Brain and Spine Center, Yokohama
                [3 ]Department of Anatomy, Tokyo Medical University, Tokyo, Japan
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Yoichi Aota, Department of Spine & Spinal Cord Surgery, Yokohama Brain and Spine Center, Takigashira 1-2-1, Isogo-ku, Yokohama City 235-0012, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, Tel +81 45 753 2500, Fax +81 45 753 2859, Email yaota@ 123456yokohama-cu.ac.jp
                © 2017 Konno et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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