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Clin Anat. 2006 May;19(4):332-6.

The course of the greater occipital nerve in the suboccipital region: a proposal for setting landmarks for local anesthesia in patients with occipital neuralgia.

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Laboratory of Anatomy, Medical School, Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki, Greece.


The anatomical relationships of the greater occipital nerve (GON) to the semispinalis capitis muscle (SCM) and the trapezius muscle aponeurosis (TMA) were examined to identify topographic landmarks for use in anesthetic blockade of the GON in occipital neuralgia. The course and the diameter of the GON were studied in 40 cadavers (29 females, 11 males), and the points where it pierced the SCM and the TMA were identified. The course of the GON did not differ between males and females. A left-right difference was detected in the site of the GON in the TMA region but not in the SCM region. The nerve became wider towards the periphery. This may be relevant to entrapment of the nerve in the development of occipital neuralgia. In three cases, the GON split into two branches before piercing the TMA and reunited after having passed the TMA, and it pierced the obliquus capitis inferior muscle in another three cases. The GON and the lesser occipital nerve reunited at the level of the occiput in 80% of the specimens. The occiput and the nuchal midline are useful topographic landmarks to guide anesthetic blockade of the GON for diagnosis and therapy of occipital neuralgia. The infiltration is probably best aimed at the site where the SCM is pierced by the GON.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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