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J Urol. 2004 Jul;172(1):191-5.

Neuroanatomy of the human female lower urogenital tract.

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Department of Urology and Pediatrics, University of California-San Francisco Children's Medical Center, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.



The neuroanatomy of the female lower urogenital tract remains controversial. We defined the topographical anatomy and differential immunohistochemical characteristics of the dorsal nerve of the clitoris, the cavernous nerve and the nerves innervating the female urethral sphincter complex.


A total of 16 normal female human pelvic specimens at 14 to 34 weeks of gestation were studied by immunohistochemical techniques. Serial sections were stained with antibodies raised against the neuronal markers S-100 and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), vesicular acetylcholine transporter, calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P. The serial sections were computer reconstructed into 3-dimensional images.


Under the pubic arch at the hilum of the clitoral bodies the branches of the cavernous nerves joined the clitoral dorsal nerve to transform its immunoreactivity to nNOS positive. The cavernous nerves originated from the vaginal nervous plexus occupying the 2 and 10 o'clock positions on the anterolateral vagina and they traveled at the 5 and 7 o'clock positions along the urethra. The urethral sphincter complex was innervated by nNOS immunoreactive and nonimmunoreactive nerve fibers arising from the vaginal nervous plexus and pudendal nerve, respectively.


The dorsal nerve of the clitoris receives nNOS positive branches from the cavernous nerve as a possible redundant mechanism for clitoral erectile function. The urethral sphincter complex has dual innervation, which pierces into the urethral sphincter complex at different locations. The study of the neuroanatomy of the female lower urogenital tract is germane to the strategic design of female reconstructive surgery.

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