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Morphological variation of thoracic splanchnic nerves in selected Ethiopian cadavers, Gondar and Mekelle Ethiopia

Meselech Ambaw Dessie, Mueez Abraha Gebretsadik, Abay Mulu, Bernard B Anderson

Background: Patients with chronic pancreatic carcinoma and cancer of the pancreas often experience severe pain. Sympathatictomy and celiac ganglia blockage or distraction has been applied with varying degree of efficacy in the relief of pain. This variability of efficacy may be due to anatomical variation in the location of the celiac ganglia and thoracic splachnic nerves.

Aim: This study aims to describe the location and the variability of thoracic splanchnic nerves in selected Ethiopian cadavers.

Methods: It is an observation based descriptive study on 10 selected Ethiopian cadavers. Both adult and fetal cadavers were dissected after embalming in formalin. This study was from January-June 2011. Purposive sampling technique was used. The thoracic splanchnic nerves were exposed in the left and the right side of the cadavers. The anatomy and the relationships between the thoracic sympathetic ganglia, sympathetic chains, and thoracic splanchnic nerves were inspected on both sides of the posterior thoracic wall.

Result: The three splanchnic nerves were present in all cadavers. The greater splanchnic nerves were formed by nerve branches from the T4–T11 thoracic sympathetic ganglia and the most common type was formed by T7-T10 (35%), followed by T6-T10 (20%). The T11 forms ganglionic array of lesser splanchnic nerves in 45% of cases. The least splanchnic nerves were formed by T12 in 70% of the cadavers.

Conclusion: Significant variations in the formation of the thoracic splanchnic nerves and the communication between them were observed. The pattern of the formation and structure of the TSNs was not only varying from person to person but also between the right and left side.

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