What is popliteal artery entrapment syndrome?

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome (PAES) is a rare vascular disease that affects the legs of some young athletes. The muscle and tendons near the knee are positioned so that they compress the popliteal artery – the main artery that runs through and behind the knee. Compression of the artery restricts blood flow to the lower leg and can damage the artery.

Patients with PAES may be born with the condition due to a developmental defect in the calf muscle on the back of the lower leg (gastrocnemius or popliteus muscle) and the popliteal artery. The condition can also develop over time, as exercise and training lead to an enlarged calf muscle that compresses the popliteal artery.

Who is at risk for PAES?

PAES occurs most often in male athletes under age 30, particularly those who are runners or play soccer, football or rugby. However, the condition can also affect young female athletes.. As the muscles next to the popliteal artery get larger, there is a greater chance of compression. This may be referred to an "over-use" injury.

Less than 3% of people are born with the defect that can lead to PAES, and most people with the condition never develop symptoms.

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