Laparoscopic anatomy of the autonomic nerves of the pelvis and the concept of nerve sparing surgery by direct visualization of autonomic nerve bundles

Educational video demonstrating the anatomy of the autonomic nerves of he pelvis and the laparoscopic neuronavigation technique for nerve-sparing radical endometriosis surgery.

Original Video Article


Nucelio Lemos, M.D., Ph.D., Caroline Souza, M.D., Renato Moretti Marques, M.D., Ph.D., Gil Kamergorodsky, M.D., Eduardo Schor, M.D., Ph.D., Manoel J.B.C. Girão, M.D., Ph.D.

Volume 104, Issue 5, Pages e11-e12



To demonstrate the laparoscopic neuroanatomy of the autonomic nerves of the pelvis using the laparoscopic neuronavigation technique, as well as the technique for a nerve-sparing radical endometriosis surgery.


Step-by-step explanation of the technique using videos and pictures (educational video) to demonstrate the anatomy of the intrapelvic bundles of the autonomic nerve system innervating the bladder, rectum, and pelvic floor.


Tertiary referral center.


One 37-year-old woman with an infiltrative endometriotic nodule on the anterior third of the left uterosacral ligament and one 34-year-old woman with rectovaginal endometriosis.


Exposure and preservation by direct visualization of the hypogastric nerve and the inferior hypogastric plexus.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Visual control and identification of the autonomic nerve branches of the posterior pelvis.


Exposure and preservation of the hypogastric nerve and the superficial part of the left hypogastric nerve were achieved on the first patient. Nerve roots S2, S3, and S4 were identified on the second patient, allowing for the exposure and preservation of the pelvic splanchnic nerves and the deep portion inferior hypogastric plexus.


Radical surgery for endometriosis can induce urinary dysfunction in 2.4%–17.5% of patients owing to lesion of the autonomic nerves. The surgeon’s knowledge of the anatomy of these nerves is the main factor for preserving postoperative urinary function. The following nerves are the intrapelvic part of the autonomic nervous system: the hypogastric nerves, which derive from the superior hypogastric plexus and carry the sympathetic signals to the internal urethral and anal sphincters as well as to the pelvic visceral proprioception; and the pelvic splanchnic nerves, which arise from S2 to S4 and carry nociceptive and parasympathetic signals to the bladder, rectum, and the sigmoid and left colons. The hypogastric and pelvic splanchnic nerves merge into the pararectal fossae to form the inferior hypogastric plexus. Most of the nerve-sparing techniques involve the dissection and exposure of the pelvic splanchnic nerves and the inferior hypogastric plexus. However, knowledge of the topographic anatomy and awareness of the landmarks for avoiding intraoperative nerve injuries seem to be the most important factors in avoiding postoperative bladder and bowel dysfunction, although this latter nerve-sparing technique seems to be associated with reduced radicality and symptom persistence.


This video demonstrates a technique to expose the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves of the pelvis to preserve them in radical pelvic surgery, by means of direct visualization, in a similar fashion to the technique used to preserve the ureters. An alternative to this technique is to use landmarks for limiting dissection and avoiding intraoperative nerve injury. Despite being safe and more easily reproducible, this technique is associated with a higher rate of symptom persistence.

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