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Pectineus muscle

Pectineus muscle (Musculus pectineus)

Pectineus is a flat muscle found in the superomedial part of the anterior thigh. Fascial compartments of the thigh muscles are specific in that each of them is innervated by a particular nerve. Due to having dual innervation, pectineus is one of a few muscles classified into two compartments at the same time; anterior and medial. The others being adductor longus and adductor magnus.

For didactic purposes, pectineus is usually described together with the five muscles of the medial compartment of the thigh. Namely, these muscles are the gracilis, adductor longus, adductor brevis and adductor magnus. This comprises the functional group of thigh adductors.

Besides adducting the thigh, the functions of pectineus include the additional movements of thigh flexion, external (lateral) rotation and internal (medial) rotation. Apart from being a prime mover, pectineus is also a postural muscle as it stabilizes the pelvis and balances the trunk on the lower extremity during walking.

Key facts about the pectineus muscle
Origin Superior pubic ramus (pectineal line of pubis)
Insertion Pectineal line of femur, linea aspera of femur
Action Hip joint: Thigh flexion, thigh adduction, thigh external rotation, thigh
internal rotation; pelvis stabilization
Innervation Femoral nerve (L2, L3)
(Obturator nerve (L2, L3))
Blood supply Medial femoral circumflex artery, obturator artery

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the pectineus muscle.

Recommended video: Pectineus muscle
Attachments, innervation and functions of the pectineus muscle.

Origin and insertion

Pectineus is a short quadrangular muscle extending from the pubis to the area just below the lesser trochanter of femur. It has the most superior attachment of all the thigh adductors, originating from the pectineal line of pubis on the superior pubic ramus. The muscle then slides over the superior margin of superior pubic ramus and courses posterolaterally down the thigh, sometimes being partially divided into a larger anterior (superficial) layer and smaller posterior (deep) layer. The layers adhere to each other but are innervated by different nerves. 

Pectineus muscle inserts into the posterior surface of femur, along the pectineal line and proximal part of linea aspera. These two aforementioned lines are continuous with each other; the pectineal line continues inferiorly from the intertrochanteric line and ends by fusing with the spiral line of femur, thus forming the medial lip of linea aspera.

Relations

The muscle lies in the same plane as, and medially to, adductor longus. While laterally, it is related to the psoas major muscle and the medial circumflex femoral artery and vein. 

The anterior surface of pectineus forms the medial part of the floor of femoral triangle together with adductor longus, while the iliacus and psoas major complete the lateral side of the floor. This surface of pectineus is covered with the deep layer of fascia lata that separates it from the femoral artery, femoral vein and great saphenous vein that course through the femoral triangle. 

Posterior to pectineus are the adductor magnus, adductor brevis and obturator externus muscles, and the anterior branch of obturator nerve. Note that the fascia lata peripherally bounds the anterior and posterior thigh compartments. These two are internally separated by medial and lateral intermuscular septa that attach to the femur. Although the adductor (medial) compartment to which pectineus belongs doesn’t have its own fascial border to separate it from the anterior and posterior compartments, it is still described separately due to common function and muscular innervation of its constituents.

Innervation

Pectineus is predominately innervated by the femoral nerve (L2, L3). However, in some people pectineus may receive innervation from two separate nerves of the lumbar plexus.

This composite innervation reflects the dual compartmentalisation of pectineus into both the anterior and medial compartments of the thigh. In these cases the anterior part of the muscle sits is innervated by the femoral nerve (L2, L3), a feature of muscles of the anterior thigh. While the posterior, smaller part of the muscle is supplied by a branch of obturator nerve (L2, L3), the accessory obturator nerve.

Blood supply

The superficial part of the muscle is supplied by the medial circumflex femoral artery, a branch of the femoral artery. Deep portion of the muscle is vascularised by the anterior branch of obturator artery, itself a branch of the internal iliac artery.

Function

Due to the course of its fibers, pectineus both flexes and adducts the thigh at the hip joint when it contracts. When the lower limb is in the anatomical position, contraction of the muscle first causes flexion to occur at the hip joint. This flexion can go as far as the thigh being at a 45 degree angle to the hip joint.

At that point, the angulation of the fibers is such that the contracted muscle fibers now pull the thigh towards the midline, producing thigh adduction. An example of a sequential movement that involves both actions of pectineus muscle is crossing your legs at the knee or ankle. Hip flexion solely is an action that, in synergy with psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris and sartorius, enables the carry-through phase of the gait cycle.

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Some sources also state that the pectineus muscle contributes to external and internal rotation of the thigh. This is still heavily debated, although it is noted that the insertion of pectineus is lateral to the midline, beyond the mechanical axis of rotation of the femur, suggesting that there could be some merit to the argument.

Besides being the prime mover, this muscle is also an important stabilizer of the pelvis. In fact, it is suggested that all the muscles attaching between the pelvis and proximal femur act as adaptable ligaments of the hip joint, preserving its integrity during body movements.

Understand the pectineus muscle functions with our 3D video tutorial.

Pectineus muscle: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,230,998 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. R. (2014). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Netter, F. (2014). Atlas of Human Anatomy (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.
  • Palastanga, N., & Soames, R. (2012). Anatomy and human movement: structure and function (6th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Standring, S. (2016). Gray's Anatomy (41tst ed.). Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

Article, review and layout:

  • Jana Vaskovic
  • Nicola McLaren

Illustrators:

  • Pectineus muscle (Musculus pectineus) - Liene Znotina
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