Background: Deaths in gluteal autografting occur due to gluteal vein injuries, but data are lacking on the precise location and caliber of these veins. Objectives: The authors sought to present the first in vivo study of gluteal vein anatomy utilizing magnetic resonance imaging. Methods: Magnetic resonance imaging venography of 16 volunteer hemi-sections was conducted in the supine, prone, prone with a bump (jack-knife), and left and right decubitus positions in 1 session after a single contrast administration. Caliber and course of the superior and inferior gluteal veins (SGV/IGV) were analyzed vs bony landmarks and position changes. Results: The SGV has a very short submuscular course before splitting into 2 smaller branches superolaterally. The IGV runs immediately deep to the gluteus maximus in the center of the buttock as a single large trunk, on average 56 mm deep (mean 27 mm of muscle belly and 30 mm subcutaneous fat). No intramuscular or subcutaneous branches greater than 2 mm were found. In the prone position, the IGV and SGV have an average caliber of 5.96 mm and 5.63 mm. Vessel caliber decreased by 21% and 27%, respectively, in the jack-knife position and by 14% and 15% in lateral decubitus. Conclusions: The SGV and IGV are immediately deep to gluteus maximus approximately 6 cm deep with a caliber on the order of 6 mm in the prone position. The distribution of these vessels suggests there is no "safe zone"in the intramuscular or submuscular planes. The jackknife or lateral decubitus positions can decrease vein caliber by up to 27%, possibly reducing the risk of injury due to either traction or direct cannula impact.
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