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Popliteal Artery
Cardiovascular System

Popliteal Artery

Arteria poplitea

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Quick Facts

Origin: Continuation of the femoral artery as it passes through the adductor hiatus.

Course: Descends laterally through the popliteal fossa.

Branches: Genicular, sural, muscular, and cutaneous arteries.

Supplied Structures: Knee joint, distal femur, proximal tibia, patella, proximal heads of gastrocnemius, plantaris, surrounding fascia, and skin.

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Origin

The popliteal artery is a continuation of the femoral artery. The femoral artery descends from the femoral triangle, medially along the anterior thigh, and passes through the adductor hiatus to continue as the popliteal artery. The adductor hiatus is the distal-most and largest gap in the attachment of the adductor magnus along the femoral shaft.

Course

From the adductor hiatus, the popliteal artery descends in a lateral direction to the intercondylar fossa. It is relatively fixed in position within the popliteal fossa as it is surrounded by adipose tissue. Distally, it is fixed by the fascia of the soleus muscle and lies deep to the gastrocnemius muscle.

As the popliteal vessels traverse the adductor hiatus, the popliteal vein sits medial to the popliteal artery. However, within the popliteal fossa, the popliteal vein lies superficial and lateral to the popliteal artery.

The popliteal artery passes over the popliteus muscle and divides into its terminal branches, the anterior and posterior tibial arteries.

The bifurcation of the popliteal artery into the anterior and posterior tibial arteries is located at the proximal interosseous space, between the shafts of the tibia and fibula. The terminal bifurcation of the popliteal artery may occur proximal to popliteus muscle. In approximately 6% of individuals, the popliteal artery trifurcates into the anterior tibial, posterior tibial, and fibular arteries (Kim et al., 1992).

Branches

The popliteal artery gives off genicular arteries within the popliteal fossa. These are the superior genicular arteries (lateral and medial), middle genicular artery, and the inferior genicular arteries (lateral and medial).

The popliteal artery also gives muscular arteries to the distal aspects of the posterior muscles of the thigh, namely the biceps femoris muscle.

The sural branches contribute to the supply of the superficial muscles of the posterior leg, namely the medial and lateral heads of the gastrocnemius muscle. Additional cutaneous branches sometimes called the sural cutaneous branches aid in supplying the surrounding regions of superficial fascia and skin.

The branches of the popliteal artery from proximal to distal are the:

- superior medial and lateral genicular arteries;

- medial and lateral sural arteries;

- middle genicular artery;

- inferior lateral genicular artery;

- inferior medial genicular artery;

- terminal bifurcation into anterior and posterior tibial arteries.

Additionally, unnamed muscular and cutaneous branches arise intermittently from the popliteal artery.

Supplied Structures

The five genicular arteries arising from the popliteal artery receive additional arterial contributions from the descending genicular artery, descending branch of the femoral circumflex artery, and anterior tibial recurrent artery to form the genicular anastomosis which supplies the knee joint.

The muscular branches and sural arteries contribute to the supply of the distal portions of the muscles of the posterior thigh and proximal portions of the superficial muscles of the posterior leg. Additionally, cutaneous vessels supply the skin surrounding the knee joint.

List of Clinical Correlates

- Popliteal aneurysms

References

Kim, D., Orron, D. E., Skillman, J. J., Kent, K. C., Porter, D. H., Schlam, B. W., Carrozza, J., Reis, G. J. and Baim, D. S. (1992) 'Role of superficial femoral artery puncture in the development of pseudoaneurysm and arteriovenous fistula complicating percutaneous transfemoral cardiac catheterization', Cathet Cardiovasc Diagn, 25(2), pp. 91-7.

Learn more about this topic from other Elsevier products

Popliteal Artery

ScienceDirect image

Popliteal artery entrapment is an uncommon peripheral arterial disorder resulting from an anomalous relationship between the popliteal artery and the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle.

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