The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is a branch of the lumbar plexus, exiting the spinal cord between the L2 and L3 vertebrae. It emerges at the lateral edge of the psoas muscle group, below the ilioinguinal nerve, and then passes beneath the iliac fascia and the inguinal ligament. It divides into two branches – anterior and posterior – eight to ten centimeters below the spine, where it also emerges from the fascia lata. The anterior branch supplies the skin of the anterior and lateral regions of the thigh to the knee, while the posterior branch supplies the lateral portion of the thigh, from the greater trochanter in the hip, to mid-thigh, just above the knee.
Neuropathies (nerve damage) of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve can arise from many different clinical situations, and often manifest as sensory loss or pain, which can be tingling, aching, or burning. Common causes of this condition, known as meralgia paresthetica, include tight clothing, obesity, pregnancy, and some spinal or pelvic surgeries. Treatment is generally conservative and may require minor changes in lifestyle, behavior, or diet.