Does a third head of the rectus femoris muscle exist?

R. S. Tubbs, W. Stetler, A. J. Savage, M. M. Shoja, A. B. Shakeri, M. Loukas, E. G. Salter, W. J. Oakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Current anatomical texts describe only two tendinous origins of the rectus femoris muscle. The authors identified one older reference in which a third head of the rectus femoris muscle was briefly described. In order to confirm the existence of this head, 48 adult cadavers (96 sides) underwent detailed dissection of the proximal attachments of the rectus femoris muscle. Of these sides 83% were found to harbour a recognised third head of the rectus femoris muscle. This additional head was found to attach deeply to the iliofemoral ligament and superficially with the tendon of the gluteus minimus muscle as it attached into the femur. This tendon attached to the anterior aspect of the greater trochanter in an inferolateral direction compared to the straight head. The mean length and width of the third head was 2 cm and 4 cm, respectively. The mean thickness was found to be 3 mm. Most commonly this third head was bilaterally absent or bilaterally present. However, 4.2% were found only on left sides and 5.2% were found only on right sides. The angle created between the reflected and third heads was approximately 60 degrees. Two sides (both left sides with one female and one male specimen) were found to have third heads that were bilaminar. These bilaminar third heads had a distinct layer attaching to the underlying iliofemoral ligament and a superficial layer blending with the gluteus minimus tendon to insert onto the greater trochanter. Although the function of such an attachment is speculative, the clinician may wish to consider this structure in the interpretation of imaging or in surgical procedures in this region, as in our study it was present on the majority of sides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-380
Number of pages4
JournalFolia Morphologica
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Anatomy
  • Anterior thigh
  • Origin
  • Quadriceps femoris
  • Tendon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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