The popliteal arteries branch from the femoral arteries in your legs to deliver blood to your knees and lower legs. They run behind your kneecap, where you can feel the popliteal pulse. Conditions like aneurysms, blood clots and atherosclerosis can affect the artery, causing leg pain (intermittent claudication) and increasing the risk of limb loss.
The popliteal arteries are an extension of the femoral arteries in your legs. They start in the middle of your thighs and run behind your knees to bring blood to the lower parts of your leg. You or a healthcare provider can feel your popliteal pulse by placing your fingers on the back of your knee over the popliteal artery.
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Popliteal arteries are part of your body’s circulatory system. They are peripheral arteries. Peripheral arteries circulate blood to body areas farther from your heart.
The popliteal arteries supply blood to the:
You have two popliteal arteries: one in your right leg and one in your left leg. These arteries are a continuation of the femoral arteries, the large blood vessels that bring blood to your legs.
Each popliteal artery is located behind your knee and runs behind your knee pit.
Below your knee joint, the arteries divide into the anterior tibial artery and the tibioperoneal (or tibiofibular) trunk. This trunk divides into smaller branches that carry blood to your fibula and to the back of your calf.
After passing through your lower leg/calf, all of these branches from the popliteal artery eventually supply all the blood to your foot.
Conditions that affect the popliteal arteries include:
Risk factors for popliteal artery conditions include:
Most popliteal artery diseases cause leg pain or heaviness when you’re walking or physically active. The pain, cramps and heaviness go away when you rest. Healthcare providers call this condition intermittent claudication.
You may also experience:
Your healthcare provider may perform these tests to diagnose popliteal artery conditions:
Treatments for popliteal artery diseases vary depending on the condition. They include:
These lifestyle changes can keep your arteries and circulatory system healthy:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The popliteal arteries play key roles in bringing blood from the femoral arteries to the lower legs. Popliteal artery diseases can restrict this blood flow, leading to problems like intermittent claudication. You may have leg pain when you walk or move, but not when you rest. Some popliteal artery diseases can lead to limb loss. Your healthcare provider can recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to maintain healthy blood flow throughout the body and can suggest testing or procedures when needed.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/17/2022.
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