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Inferior gluteal artery

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Inferior gluteal artery (arteria glutea inferior)

The inferior gluteal artery is a terminal branch of the internal iliac artery supplying the gluteal and thigh regions. It is initially found in the pelvis after which it runs through the greater sciatic foramen to emerge into the gluteal region.

Inside the pelvis, the inferior gluteal artery gives off several branches to supply the pelvic floor muscles. Upon exiting the pelvis and emerging in the gluteal region, the inferior gluteal artery gives off branches to supply the sciatic nerve and the muscles and skin of the gluteal, hip and thigh regions.

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the inferior gluteal artery.

Key facts about the inferior gluteal artery
Origin Internal iliac artery
Branches Muscular branches, artery to sciatic nerve, anastomotic branches, cutaneous branches 
Supply Piriformis, ischiococcygeus, iliococcygeus, gluteus maximus, obturator internus, superior and inferior gemelli, quadratus femoris muscles; sciatic nerve, skin of gluteal and thigh regions
  1. Origin and course
  2. Branches and supply
  3. Anatomical variations
  4. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and course

The inferior gluteal artery arises from the anterior division of the internal iliac artery as one of its terminal branches. From its origin, the inferior gluteal artery descends anteroposteriorly to the piriformis muscle and sacral plexus, while running posterior to the internal pudendal artery.

It travels ensheathed in the parietal pelvic fascia, which runs between the S1 and S2 nerve roots, to approach the greater sciatic foramen. It passes through the lower portion of the greater sciatic foramen, running between piriformis and ischiococcygeus muscles to emerge into the gluteal region.

Here, the inferior gluteal artery descends in the gap between the greater trochanter of the femur and tuberosity of the ischium, travelling deep to the gluteus maximus muscle. It continues down the posterior aspect of the thigh, supplying the skin and dividing into its terminal branches.

Branches and supply

Along its course in the pelvis, the inferior gluteal artery gives off several muscular branches that supply the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm. In the gluteal region, the artery gives off more muscular branches, the artery to the sciatic nerve and several anastomotic branches:

  • Muscular branches: the branches that arise inside the pelvis supply the piriformis, ischiococcygeus and iliococcygeus muscles. The muscular branches that arise in the gluteal region supply the gluteus maximus, obturator internus, superior gemellus, inferior gemellus and quadratus femoris muscles. These branches also supply the upper part of the hamstring muscles.
  • Artery to sciatic nerve: accompanies the sciatic nerve and supplies it. This artery is a remnant of the embryonic axial artery of the limb, and was the major supplier to the posterior compartment of the thigh during embryonic life.
  • Anastomotic branches: arise as several branches that enter the trochanteric fossa to anastomose with branches of the superior gluteal, lateral circumflex and medial circumflex artery. Together, these form the so-called trochanteric anastomosis, which supplies the head of the femur. Other branches of the inferior gluteal artery pass towards the lesser trochanter, where they anastomose with the lateral and medial circumflex artery, the posterior branch of the obturator artery and perforating branch of the deep femoral artery. These form the so-called cruciate anastomosis that supplies the upper thigh.
  • Cutaneous branches: supply the skin of the gluteal and thigh regions.

Anatomical variations

Although it most commonly arises directly from the internal iliac artery, the inferior gluteal artery may also arise as a common trunk with the superior gluteal artery or the internal pudendal artery. Additionally, the inferior gluteal artery can be duplicated.

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