MR imaging assessment of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius muscle: prevalence of segmental anomalous origins in children and young adults

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Variations in the lower extremity musculature have been identified, including an anomalous origin of the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle. Anomalies of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius muscle (LGN) have been less frequently described, especially in children.


To describe the MR imaging appearance, frequency and clinical symptoms associated with anatomic variations of the LGN in children and young adults.

Materials and methods

A retrospective review of 465 knee MR imaging examinations was performed. The site of origin of the LGN was identified as either normal, lateral segmental anomalous origin (LSAO), or medial accessory anomalous origin (MAAO). The clinical indication for imaging was recorded.


An anatomic variation of the LGN was identified in 16 patients (3.4%). Nine patients had LSAO, and five of these had symptoms referable to or abnormalities of the patella. Seven patients had MAAO, and three of these had chronic nontraumatic knee pain.


Anatomic variations of the LGN are not rare in young patients, occurring with a frequency of 3.4% in our series. It is unknown whether these anomalies play a role in the etiology of patellofemoral pain or unexplained joint pain in children.

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