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Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Global Research & Reviews


A rare but typically overlooked diagnosis in the orthopaedic surgery community is superior cluneal nerve (SCN) entrapment syndrome. The cluneal nerves function as purely sensory fibers, and the SCNs provide cutaneous innervation to the posterior parasacral, gluteal, and posterolateral thigh regions. When irritated, this syndrome can cause acute and chronic lower back pain and lower extremity symptoms. A 14-year-old adolescent girl presented to the clinic for an evaluation of pain in the right side of her lower back. The patient's physical examination showed tenderness to palpation on the right posterior iliac crest seven centimeters from the midline. Her neurologic examination demonstrated normal deep tendon reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation in the L2-S1 dermatomal distribution. Although imaging showed evidence of a left L5 spondylolysis, she responded positively to a steroid injection over the posterior iliac crest but negatively to one over the L5 pars defect. She later underwent a right SCN decompression surgery. After the procedure, she reported at least 90% improvement in her pain and rated it as a one in severity, on a scale of 0 to 10. Research regarding SCN entrapment syndrome has increased in the past several years. However, most of these studies are limited to the adult population. Therefore, more reports highlighting the potential for this syndrome in adolescents are needed as well.



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