Document Type


Publication Title

The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine



An iatrogenic injury to the infrapatellar branch of the saphenous nerve (IPBSN) is a common precipitant of postoperative knee pain and hypoesthesia.


To locate potential safe zones for incision by observing the patterns and pathway of the IPBSN while examining the relationship of its location to sex, laterality, and leg length.

Study Design:

Descriptive laboratory study.


A total of 107 extended knees from 55 formalin-embalmed cadaveric specimens were dissected. The nerve was measured from palpable landmarks: the patella at the medial (point A) and lateral (point B) borders of the patellar ligament, the medial border of the patellar ligament at the patellar apex (point C) and tibial plateau (point D), the medial epicondyle (point E), and the anterior border of the medial collateral ligament at the tibial plateau (point F). The safe zone was defined as 2 SDs from the mean.


Findings indicated significant correlations between leg length and height (r P = 0.832; P < .001) as well as between leg length and vertical measurements (≥45°) from points A and B to the IPBSN (r P range, 0.193-0.285; P range, .004-.049). Male specimens had a more inferior maximum distance from point A to the intersection of the IPBSN and the medial border of the patellar ligament compared with female specimens (6.17 vs 5.28 cm, respectively; P = .049). Right knees had a more posterior IPBSN from point F compared with left knees (–0.98 vs–0.02 cm, respectively; P = .048). The majority of knees (62.6%; n = 67) had a nerve emerging that penetrated the sartorius muscle. Additionally, 32.7% (n = 35) had redundant innervation, and 25.2% (n = 27) had contribution from the intermediate femoral cutaneous nerve (IFCN).


We identified no safe zone. Significant innervation redundancy with a substantial contribution to the infrapatellar area from the IFCN was noted and contributed to the expansion of the danger zone.

Clinical Relevance:

The location of incision and placement of arthroscopic ports might not be as crucial in postoperative pain management as an appreciation of the variance in infrapatellar innervation. The IFCN is a common contributor. Its damage could explain pain refractory to SN blocks and therefore influence anesthetic and analgesic decisions.



Publication Date



knee, peripheral nerve injuries, lower extremity, anesthesia/pain management, general sports trauma, anatomy, injury prevention