Femoral Vein

Overview

What is the femoral vein?

The femoral vein is a large blood vessel in each of your legs. These veins collect blood from the tissues of your lower legs and return it to your heart. Once the blood reaches your heart, it receives oxygen and moves back out to your body through your arteries.

Function

What do veins do?

Blood constantly moves through your body, bringing oxygen and nutrients to your bones, muscles and tissues. After delivering oxygen and nutrients, the blood becomes deoxygenated (without oxygen). Deoxygenated blood returns to the right side of your heart through a network of thin blood vessels (veins). Veins are part of your circulatory system.

What is the circulatory system?

Every time your heart beats, your arteries send oxygenated blood from the left side of your heart to tissues throughout your body. Once your tissues use the oxygen and nutrients they need, tiny blood vessels (capillaries) collect carbon dioxide and other waste products from the tissues.

Deoxygenated blood then flows into your veins to make its way back to your heart. Your heart and blood vessels keep your circulatory system working in a constant rhythm.

What is the function of the femoral vein?

Blood from your lower leg drains into your femoral vein, sometimes known as your superficial femoral vein. Your femoral vein then moves this blood into your external iliac vein. From there, blood enters the veins in your abdomen.

How does the femoral vein work with other veins?

Your femoral vein is part of a large network of veins in your body that work together to keep your blood moving. These veins drain into one another until the blood reaches the right side of your heart.

How does blood drain into the femoral vein?

Blood moves into your femoral vein from your popliteal vein. Veins of your lower leg form the popliteal vein below your knee.

Smaller veins that drain into larger veins are tributaries of the larger vein. Tributaries of your femoral vein include:

  • Deep femoral vein: A vein located deep inside of your thigh, which meets your femoral vein to form your common femoral vein.
  • Great saphenous vein: A large superficial vein that begins in your foot and runs up your leg to your femoral vein.
  • Lateral and medial circumflex femoral veins: Smaller veins that drain blood from tissues in your leg into your femoral vein.

Why is the femoral vein important?

Healthcare providers sometimes use your femoral vein to help diagnose and treat heart conditions. They may insert a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into this vein to perform various heart procedures such as right heart catheterization or cardiac ablation.

Anatomy

Where is the femoral vein located?

The femoral vein is in your thigh. This vein begins at your knee and travels up through your groin to your abdomen. Your femoral vein sits next to your femoral artery.

How do you find the femoral vein?

Healthcare providers may use vascular ultrasound to locate your femoral vein.

Is femoral vein anatomy the same in everyone?

Your femoral vein includes valves that prevent blood from flowing backward as it moves toward your heart. The number of valves in your femoral vein may be different in different people. You might also have a different number of valves in your right femoral vein than in your left femoral vein.

How big is the femoral vein?

The length of your femoral vein varies depending on your height. The diameter of the femoral vein ranges from about 6 millimeters (mm), the size of a pencil eraser, to 11 mm, the size of a pea.

What is the femoral vein made of?

Veins typically have walls that include three layers:

  • Lining made from cells that release substances causing veins to contract (endothelial cells).
  • Middle smooth muscle layer that makes veins flexible.
  • Outer connective tissue (collagen and elastin) layer that allows veins to stretch and contract as needed.

Conditions and Disorders

What are the common conditions affecting the femoral vein?

Veins in your leg, such as your femoral vein, are at higher risk for blood clots or swelling, especially in people who stand a lot. This risk increases when you stand because blood must fight gravity to flow upward.

When valves in your femoral vein don’t function properly and allow blood to pool, you might develop:

What are the symptoms of problems with the femoral vein?

If your femoral vein isn’t moving blood as it should, you might have:

What tests do healthcare providers use to see if the femoral vein is healthy?

Your healthcare provider may recommend certain tests to make sure your femoral vein is healthy:

Healthcare providers may also inject a dye into your veins and take X-rays to check blood flow. This vascular study, known as a venogram, shows how blood flows through your veins.

How do healthcare providers treat problems with the femoral vein?

Your healthcare provider may recommend venous blood clot treatment to dissolve blood clots and improve blood flow in your femoral vein. Medications may include:

  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood from clotting.
  • Thrombolytic medications to dissolve blood clots.

Care

What should I do to keep my veins healthy?

To keep your veins healthy:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your femoral vein helps keep your blood circulating. Talk with your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes that can help keep your veins healthy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.

References

  • Castro D, Martin Lee LAM, Bhutta BS. Femoral Vein Central Venous Access. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459255/?report=classic) [Updated 2021 Nov 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Accessed 5/17/2022.
  • Keiler J, Schulze M, Claassen H, Wree A. (2018), Human Femoral Vein Diameter and Topography of Valves and Tributaries: A Post Mortem Analysis. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ca.23224) Clin Anat, 31: 1065-1076. Accessed 5/17/2022.
  • Merck Manual (Consumer Version). Overview of the Venous System. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders/venous-disorders/overview-of-the-venous-system) Accessed 5/17/2022.
  • National Cancer Institute. Visuals Online. Tumor Size in Millimeters. (https://visualsonline.cancer.gov/details.cfm?imageid=12163) Accessed 5/17/2022.
  • Radiopaedia.org. Deep femoral vein. (https://radiopaedia.org/articles/deep-femoral-vein?lang=us) Accessed 5/17/2022.
  • Radiopaedia.org. Femoral vein. (https://radiopaedia.org/articles/femoral-vein?lang=us) Accessed 5/17/2022.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy