Neural involvement in endometriosis: Review of anatomic distribution and mechanisms

Ana C. Siquara De Sousa, Stepan Capek, Kimberly K. Amrami, Robert J. Spinner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Endometriosis (EM) is an infrequent cause of peripheral neuropathy, most commonly sciatic. Perineural spread has recently been introduced as an alternate explanation for cases of lumbosacral or sciatic nerve EM. We performed a literature review to collect all reported cases of peripheral and central nervous system EM in search of anatomic patterns of involvement; potentially to support the perineural spread theory. If available, intraneural invasion and presence of peritoneal EM were recorded. The search revealed 83 articles describing 365 cases of somatic peripheral nervous EM and 13 cases of central nervous EM. The most frequently involved site was the sacral plexus (57%, n=211), followed by the sciatic nerve (39%, n=140). Other nerves were reported in significantly smaller numbers. Ninety seven percent (97%, n=355) of peripheral nerve cases presented with pain, 20% (n=72) reported weakness and 31% (n=114), numbness. Thirty four percent (34%, n=38) had solely intraneural EM of which 89% (n=33) had no peritoneal EM (percentage based on available information). In the central nervous system, the conus medullaris and/or cauda equina constituted the majority of cases with 54% (n=7). Apart from perineural spread, other discussed mechanisms include retrograde menstruation with peritoneal seeding, hematogenous and lymphogenous spread, stem cell implantation either hematogenously or via retrograde menstruation with subsequent EM differentiation, and coelomic or Müllerian duct metaplasia. We believe this literature review supports perineural spread as an alternate mechanism for EM of nerve, particularly the subgroup with intraneural EM and without peritoneal disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1038
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • autonomic pathways
  • central nervous system
  • endometriosis
  • peripheral nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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