, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 721-731
Date: 19 Apr 2006

Sciatica in the female patient: anatomical considerations, aetiology and review of the literature

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Abstract

The principal author was confronted few years ago with the case of a 38-year-old woman with a 5-month history of ill-defined L5 sciatic pain that was referred to an orthopaedic department for investigation and eventual surgical treatment for what was suspected to be herniated disc-related sciatica. Removal of her enlarged uterus found unexpectedly close to the sacroiliac joint upon lumbar MRI abolished her symptoms. Review of the literature showed that the lumbosacral trunk is vulnerable to pressure from any abdominal mass originating from the uterus and the ovaries. Physiological processes in the female patient and gynaecological diseases may be the source of sciatica, often not readily searched for, leading to fruitless investigations and surgical treatments. The aim of the paper is to highlight gynaecological and obstetrical causes of sciatica and sciatica-like symptoms. To prevent unproductive expenses and morbidity, a thorough gynaecological examination should be done even though neurological examination may be suggestive of a herniated intervertebral disc, and the cyclic pattern of pain related to menses should be routinely asked for.