Inguinal canal

Dr Jeffrey Cheng and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

The inguinal canal is a passage in the anterior abdominal wall that transmits structures from the pelvis to the perineum formed by the fetal migration of the gonad from the abdomen into the labioscrotal folds.

Gross anatomy

The inguinal canal has an oblique course, is 4 cm in length and has two openings:

  1. deep inguinal ring: a round opening in the transversalis fascia found 1 cm superior to the inguinal ligament and 1 cm lateral to the inferior epigastric arteries
  2. superficial inguinal ring: a V-shaped opening in the external oblique aponeurosis that is superior and lateral to the pubic tubercle 1,2
Deep inguinal ring

The deep inguinal ring is bounded by the following:

  • laterally by the angle between the transversus abdominis and inguinal ligament.
  • medially lies the inferior epigastric vessels.
Superficial inguinal ring

The superficial inguinal ring, as described, is an inverted 'V' shaped, triangular opening in the medial end of the external oblique aponeurosis, above and lateral to the pubic tubercle. The lateral arm of the 'V' is the lateral crus and its medial arm, the medial crus. The spermatic cord (in males)/round ligament (in females) overlies the pubic tubercle. 

  • lateral crus of the 'V' is attached to the pubic tubercle
  • medial crus of the 'V' is attached to the pubic crest, near the symphysis. 
  • posterior crus arises from the attachment of the lateral crus, whereby some fibres (reflected part of the inguinal ligament) pass up behind the cord to attach to the rectus sheath, blending with fibres of the opposite side

The following structures contribute to the walls of the inguinal canal 1:

MALT is a mnemonic to recall this. 


Related pathology

Anatomy: abdominopelvic
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Article information

rID: 23026
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Superficial inguinal ring
  • Deep inguinal ring
  • Inguinal ring

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Cases and figures

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    Figure 1: sagittal view of inguinal canal relations
    Drag here to reorder.
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