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Inguinal canal

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the anatomy of the inguinal canal.
  2. Identify the contents of the inguinal canal/spermatic cord.
  3. Define the layers of the anterior abdominal wall as well as their contributions to the coverings of the spermatic cord.

Watch video

The inguinal canal is an oblique tubular passage that connects the pelvis and perineum. It originates superolaterally at the deep inguinal ring, traverses the abdominal wall and terminates at the superficial inguinal ring near the pubic tubercle.

During fetal life, the inguinal canal in males allows for the physiological descension of the testes into the scrotum. In adult life, the inguinal canal serves as a conduit for the spermatic cord and ilioinguinal nerve in males. In females, the inguinal canal is less prominent due to the absence of the spermatic cord, however, it does provide the passage for the round ligament of uterus and ilioinguinal nerve.

The inguinal canal is the weakest point of the trunk wall and as such, an often site for herniations (inguinal hernia), especially so in males due to the descent of the testis.

Watch the following video to learn more about the anatomy of this structure.

Take a quiz

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Browse atlas

Take a closer look at each of the structures in the gallery below.


Key points about the inguinal canal
Definition Obliquely oriented passage through several musculoaponeurotic layers of the lower abdominal wall which transmits the spermatic cord (male) / round ligament (female)
Boundaries Roof: internal oblique and transversus abdominis muscles
Anterior wall:
aponeuroses of internal and external abdominal oblique muscles
inguinal and lacunar ligaments
Posterior wall:
transversalis fascia and inguinal falx (conjoint tendon of internal abdominal oblique and transversus abdominis muscles)
Contents Male: spermatic cord (testicular/cremasteric arteries, artery of ductus deferens, pampiniform venous plexus, ilioinguinal nerve, genital branch of genitofemoral nerve, ductus deferens
round ligament, ilioinguinal nerve

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