The connective tissue of the adductor canal – a morphological study in fetal and adult specimens

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The adductor canal is a conical or pyramid-shaped pathway that contains the femoral vessels, saphenous nerve and a varying amount of fibrous tissue. It is involved in adductor canal syndrome, a claudication syndrome involving young individuals. Our objective was to study modifications induced by aging on the connective tissue and to correlate them to the proposed pathophysiological mechanism. The bilateral adductor canals and femoral vessels of four adult and five fetal specimens were removed en bloc and analyzed. Sections 12 µm thick were obtained and the connective tissue studied with Sirius Red, Verhoeff, Weigert and Azo stains. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) photomicrographs of the surfaces of each adductor canal were also analyzed. Findings were homogeneous inside each group. The connective tissue of the canal was continuous with the outer layer of the vessels in both groups. The pattern of concentric, thick collagen type I bundles in fetal specimens was replaced by a diffuse network of compact collagen bundles with several transversal fibers and an impressive content of collagen III fibers. Elastic fibers in adults were not concentrated in the thick bundles but dispersed in line with the transversal fiber system. A dynamic compression mechanism with or without an evident constricting fibrous band has been proposed previously for adductor canal syndrome, possibly involving the connective tissue inside the canal. The vessels may not slide freely during movement. These age-related modifications in normal individuals may represent necessary conditions for this syndrome to develop.

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