What is the anatomy of the saphenous nerve relative in nerve entrapment syndromes of the lower extremity?

Updated: Oct 15, 2019
  • Author: Minoo Hadjari Hollis, MD; Chief Editor: Thomas M DeBerardino, MD  more...
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The saphenous nerve is the terminal branch (and the longest branch) of the femoral nerve. It is a pure sensory nerve that is made up of fibers from the L3 and L4 spinal segments. Because of its long course, it can become entrapped in multiple locations, from the thigh to the leg.

The saphenous nerve branches from the femoral nerve just distal to the inguinal ligament and courses with the superficial femoral artery to enter the adductor (Hunter’s) canal in the distal third of the thigh. This canal extends proximally from the apex of the femoral triangle to the inferomedial aspect of the thigh in the adductor magnus tendon, just proximal to the femoral condyle. The canal is somewhat triangular and lies between the vastus medialis laterally and the adductor magnus and adductor longus medially.

The roof of the adductor canal is a dense bridge of connective tissue extending between these muscle groups. The saphenous nerve exits the canal by piercing the roof and becomes subcutaneous about 10 cm proximal to the medial epicondyle of the femur. The nerve may also pierce the sartorius. Once it becomes subcutaneous, the nerve branches to form the infrapatellar plexus, while the main branch continues along the medial leg and foot.

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