Femoral Artery

The femoral artery is the main blood vessel supplying oxygen-rich blood to your lower body. It starts in your upper thigh, near your groin and runs down to the back of your knee. The function of the femoral artery and its branches is to supply your lower body with blood. Your tissues need blood to get oxygen and nutrients.


Your femoral artery supplies blood to your leg and other parts of your lower body
Your femoral artery is a major artery that brings oxygen-rich blood to your lower body.

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 (belly) down through your lower limbs. This artery starts in the upper front part of your thigh, near the groin. It runs downward in a fairly straight line and separates into several branches along its route.

When you climb a flight of stairs or walk your dog, your femoral artery is hard at work. It’s making sure the leg muscles you’re using can get the oxygen and nutrients they need. You can thank your femoral artery for a continuous supply of blood that delivers the fuel for your leg muscles to move. 


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What does the femoral artery do?

Your femoral artery and its branches supply your lower body with blood. Your body’s 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 and to your body’s tissues.

The femoral vein runs alongside the femoral artery. This vein carries oxygen-poor blood from your lower body back up to your heart.


Where is the femoral artery?

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.


What are the parts of your femoral artery?

The anatomy of the femoral artery includes:

  • Common femoral artery: This first part of the femoral artery is an extension of the external iliac artery in your pelvis. It contains several branches that supply blood to the tissues in your abdominal wall, groin and pubic area. Branches of the femoral artery include: superficial circumflex, superficial external pudendal and superficial inferior epigastric arteries.
  • Deep femoral artery: This artery branches off the common femoral artery. It has branches of its own, the medial circumflex and lateral circumflex arteries. 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 down your 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-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 your heart.


What are the femoral artery layers?

The walls of all arteries, including your 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 are the common conditions and disorders that affect your femoral artery?

Conditions that affect your femoral artery include:

Common signs or symptoms of femoral artery conditions

Symptoms of femoral artery conditions may include:

  • Painful, achy or tired leg muscles while walking.
  • Swelling or pressure in your leg.
  • Foot wounds that heal slowly.
  • Skin discoloration.

Common tests to check the health of your femoral artery

In addition to a physical exam, a provider can use tests to check your femoral artery, like:

Common treatments for your femoral artery

Treatments for your femoral artery may include:


How can I keep my femoral artery healthy?

You can keep your femoral artery and the rest of your blood vessels as healthy as possible by:

  • Eating healthy foods that are low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats.
  • Getting physical activity regularly.
  • Managing your blood pressure.
  • Not using tobacco products.
  • Drinking fewer beverages that contain alcohol.
  • Maintaining a healthy blood sugar.

Additional Common Questions

What happens if your femoral artery is blocked?

A complete, sudden blockage of your 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 fatigue and painful cramping in your 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.

What happens if the femoral artery is severed?

Because the femoral artery is large, an injury to it causes a lot of bleeding. You need emergency medical care for this. Healthcare providers can repair a femoral artery and save your leg if you get prompt care.

A lack of blood to your leg can cause leg tissue to die from lack of oxygen. This can lead to the need for leg amputation. Also, losing too much blood can be fatal.

What does femoral artery pain feel like?

When you have a blockage in your femoral artery, it causes pain in the muscles around it. This is because they aren’t getting the oxygen they need. With a gradual blockage, you may have mild pain that occurs first with exercise (like walking) and then progresses to pain at night with your legs elevated. But a sudden artery blockage causes more severe pain. The pain may feel like an ache or cramp. This may be associated with tingling, numbness, pallor and limited mobility of the affected leg.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You may not give much thought to your femoral artery in your day-to-day life. But if you have pain in your legs when you walk, your femoral artery is probably the reason. A blockage in this major blood vessel affects how much blood can get to your legs. You can reduce your risk of problems in your femoral artery by managing your blood pressure, staying physically active, eating nutritious foods, staying at a weight that’s healthy for you, managing diabetes and avoiding tobacco products.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/03/2024.

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