What is the femoral artery?
The femoral artery is a major blood vessel in your body. It carries blood from the bottom of your abdomen down through your lower limbs. This artery starts in the upper front part of your thigh, near the groin. It separates into several branches along its route.
What is the purpose of the femoral artery?
The function of the femoral artery and its branches is to supply the lower body with blood. Your tissues need blood to get oxygen and nutrients. Like other arteries in your body, the femoral artery carries oxygen-rich blood away from your heart. The femoral vein runs alongside the femoral artery. This vein carries deoxygenated blood from your lower body, back up to your heart.
Where is the femoral artery located?
The location of the femoral artery is at the top of your thigh in an area called the femoral triangle. The triangle is just below your groin, which is the crease where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. The femoral artery runs to the lower thigh and ends behind the knee. At the knee, the femoral artery becomes the popliteal artery.
How is the femoral artery structured?
The femoral artery runs downward in a relatively straight line, but it contains branches that move outward. The femoral artery has several sections:
- Common femoral artery: This first part of the femoral artery is an extension of the external iliac artery in the pelvis. It contains several branches that supply blood to the tissues in the abdominal wall, groin and pubic area.
- Deep femoral artery: This artery branches off the common femoral artery. It supplies blood to the femur, hip, buttocks and tissues deep in the thigh.
- Superficial femoral artery: This part of the femoral artery continues from the common femoral artery. It delivers blood to the lower leg, including the muscles at the front of your thigh and part of your knee.
How big is the femoral artery?
The common femoral artery is about 4 centimeters long (around an inch and a half). The deep and superficial portions continue on down the leg. The diameter of the artery varies widely by sex, weight, height and ethnicity. But it’s usually between 7 and 8 millimeters across (about a quarter of an inch).
The wide diameter of the common femoral artery makes it an ideal access point for endovascular procedures. A surgeon can insert a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into your femoral artery to access other blood vessels in your body, especially those near the heart.
What is the femoral artery made of?
The walls of all arteries, including the femoral artery, contain three layers:
- Tunica intima: The inner layer keeps your blood flowing smoothly. It regulates blood pressure, prevents blood clots and keeps toxins out of your blood.
- Media: The middle layer is elastic, which keeps your blood flowing in one direction. The media also helps vessels expand and contract.
- Adventitia: The outer layer gives blood vessels their structure and support. It contains tiny vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients from your blood to the wall of the femoral artery.
Conditions and Disorders
What conditions and disorders affect the femoral artery?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the most common condition to affect the femoral artery. PAD is often the result of atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup inside the arteries. The arteries narrow and blood can’t pass through freely.
Blood clots and aneurysms (bulges in a blood vessel wall) can also develop in the femoral artery.
How can I keep my femoral artery healthy?
Keep your femoral artery and the rest of your blood vessels as healthy as possible by:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats.
- Exercising regularly.
- Managing your blood pressure.
- Not smoking.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I call my doctor?
Complete, sudden blockage of the femoral artery is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:
- Leg paralysis (inability to move your leg).
- Numbness in your leg.
- Severe leg pain.
- Sudden coldness in your leg.
- Very pale or blue skin on your leg.
Long-term narrowing or total blockage of the femoral artery can cause claudication, fatigue and painful cramping in the calf muscles when walking. In extreme situations, a blocked artery in your leg can lead to amputation (removal) of your toes, foot or leg. This may happen if the tissues don’t receive blood or oxygen for a prolonged period of time.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The femoral artery is the major blood vessel supplying blood to your legs. It’s in your upper thigh, right near your groin. The artery is a common access point for minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures because of its large diameter. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) often affects the femoral artery, causing pain, cramping and other problems in your legs. You can reduce your risk for problems in your femoral artery by not smoking, managing your weight and blood pressure, exercising and eating a healthy diet.
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