, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 397-404
Date: 12 Jan 2011

Female pelvic autonomic neuroanatomy based on conventional macroscopic and computer-assisted anatomic dissections

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To confront nerve dissection, tissue staining, nerve immunolabelling and Computer-Assisted Anatomic Dissection (CAAD) in identifying the precise location and origin of intrapelvic autonomic nerve fibers and to provide a three-dimensional (3D) representation of their relationship to other anatomical structures.


Serial transverse sections of the pelvic portion of five human female fetuses (18–31 weeks of gestation) were studied histologically (with hematoxylin/eosin and Masson trichrome) and immunohistochemically (anti-protein S100 antibody) digitized and reconstructed three-dimensionally with Surf driver software for Windows (Winsurf 4.3). Three fresh female adult cadavers were macroscopically dissected to individualize the inferior hypogastric plexus afferences and efferences and their anatomical relationships.


This combined investigation including the CAAD technique allowed identifying the precise location and distribution of the pelvic nerve elements and their relationships to female pelvic organs. Hypogastric nerves (HN) were located in the retrorectal multilaminar structure and joined the homolateral inferior hypogastric plexus (IHP) at the lateral border of the recto-uterine pouch. The intersection of the ureter with the posterior wall of the uterine artery precisely located the junction of HN and IHP. Antero-inferior branches supplying female sexual and continence organs originated from the antero-inferior angle of IHP and were bundled at the posterolateral vaginal wall.


CAAD is an encouraging anatomical method for the development of anatomical and surgical research and teaching. Complementary to traditional anatomical studies, it may provide useful anatomical data for the comprehension of postoperative sexual and urinary dysfunction and the development of nerve-sparing surgical techniques.