Innervation of the Levator Ani and Coccygeus Muscles of the Female Rat

Ronald E. Bremer, Matthew D. Barber, Kimberly W. Coates, Paul C. Dolber, Karl B. Thor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In humans, the pelvic floor skeletal muscles support the viscera. Damage to innervation of these muscles during parturition may contribute to pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Unfortunately, animal models that are suitable for studying parturition-induced pelvic floor neuropathy and its treatment are rare. The present study describes the intrapelvic skeletal muscles (i.e., the iliocaudalis, pubocaudalis, and coccygeus) and their innervation in the rat to assess its usefulness as a model for studies of pelvic floor nerve damage and repair. Dissection of rat intrapelvic skeletal muscles demonstrated a general similarity with human pelvic floor muscles. Innervation of the iliocaudalis and pubocaudalis muscles (which together constitute the levator ani muscles) was provided by a nerve (the "levator ani nerve") that entered the pelvic cavity alongside the pelvic nerve, and then branched and penetrated the ventromedial (i.e., intrapelvic) surface of these muscles. Innervation of the rat coccygeus muscle (the "coccygeal nerve") was derived from two adjacent branches of the L6-S1 trunk that penetrated the muscle on its rostral edge. Acetylcholinesterase staining revealed a single motor endplate zone in each muscle, closely adjacent to the point of nerve penetration. Transection of the levator ani or coccygeal nerves (with a 2-week survival time) reduced muscle mass and myocyte diameter in the iliocaudalis and pubocaudalis or coccygeus muscles, respectively. The pudendal nerve did not innervate the intrapelvic skeletal muscles. We conclude that the intrapelvic skeletal muscles in the rat are similar to those described in our previous studies of humans and that they have a distinct innervation with no contribution from the pudendal nerve.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1041
Number of pages11
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Levator ani
  • Pelvic floor
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Pudendal nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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