Piriformis muscle syndrome: A cross-sectional imaging study in 116 patients and evaluation of therapeutic outcome



To increase the clinical awareness of piriformis muscle syndrome (PMs) by reporting cross-sectional imaging findings, the clinical impact of imaging studies and treatment outcome.


Within a 10-year-period, 116 patients referred for radiological evaluation of clinically suspected PMs, with excluded lumbar pathology related to symptomatology, were prospectively studied with MRI and/or computed tomography (CT). Piriformis muscle (PM), sciatic nerve (SN), piriformis region and sacroiliac joints were evaluated. PMs was categorised into primary/secondary, according to a reported classification system. Treatment decisions were recorded. Outcome was categorised using a 3-point-scale.


Seventy-four patients (63.8%) exhibited pathologies related to PMs. Primary causes were detected in 12 and secondary in 62 patients. PM enlargement was found in 45.9% of patients, abnormal PM signal intensity/density in 40.5% and sciatic neuritis in 25.7%. Space-occupying lesions represented the most common related pathology. Treatment proved effective in 5/8 patients with primary and 34/51 patients with secondary PMs. In 34 patients, imaging revealed an unknown underlying medical condition and altered treatment planning.


Secondary PMs aetiologies appear to prevail. In suspected PMs, PM enlargement represented the most common imaging finding and space-occupying lesions the leading cause. Imaging had the potential to alter treatment decisions.

Key Points

In clinically suspected PMs cross-sectional imaging may reveal variable pathology.

Secondary PMs aetiologies appeared to be more common than primary.

PM enlargement represented the most common imaging finding in clinically suspected PMs.

Space-occupying lesions in the piriformis region represented the leading cause of PMs.

In clinically suspected PMs cross-sectional imaging may alter treatment planning.

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