The iliac arteries carry blood to the lower extremities, including the legs, reproductive organs and pelvic region. You have two iliac arteries: one on the right side of the body (called the right common iliac artery) and one on the left (called the left common iliac artery).
The iliac arteries are blood vessels that provide blood to the legs, pelvis, reproductive organs and other organs in the pelvic area. The pelvis is the lower part of your torso, just above where your legs connect at the hips. The iliac arteries branch off of the bottom of the aorta, the large artery coming out of the top of the heart.
The iliac arteries are peripheral arteries. Peripheral means they provide blood to parts of the body farther away from the heart.
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Like many blood vessels, the iliac arteries are prone to a buildup of fat and cholesterol (plaque). This plaque can affect blood flow and cause peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD causes leg pain that makes walking difficult.
As part of the body’s circulatory system, the iliac arteries carry blood to the:
You have two iliac arteries: one on the right side of the body (called the right common iliac artery) and one on the left (called the left common iliac artery).
Both common iliac arteries branch from the base of the aorta. This part of the aorta is called the abdominal aorta because it’s in your belly. The common iliac arteries begin around the midsection or belly button region.
From the aorta, each common iliac artery travels down about 1 inch (3 centimeters) before it divides. There, it splits into an internal iliac artery and external iliac artery. These smaller channels of the iliac arteries divide into even smaller arteries to reach more of your lower body.
The external iliac arteries are the largest of the common iliac branches. The external iliac arteries become femoral arteries in the legs. These large blood vessels are the main source of blood to the legs and feet.
The two branches of external iliac arteries include the:
The internal iliac arteries divide into nine anterior (front) arteries and three posterior (rear) arteries. Two of the anterior iliac arteries are only present in the umbilical cord in pregnant people.
These arteries send blood to:
Conditions that affect the iliac arteries include:
These lifestyle changes can keep the iliac arteries healthy and lower your risk of PAD:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’re at risk for PAD or other iliac artery problems, you should see your healthcare providers if walking becomes painful. Also check with a provider if you develop nonhealing foot sores. Leg pain doesn’t always mean you have PAD. Simple, noninvasive tests can measure blood flow through the legs and help your provider make an accurate diagnosis. You can make diet and lifestyle changes to keep the iliac arteries open and healthy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/04/2021.
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