In Depth: Vessels
There are many blood vessels within the male pelvic region. Many are there to supply the lower half of the body, but many supply the male reproductive organs.
The femoral artery and femoral vein — two major blood vessels — travel through the pelvic bone. These vessels transport blood to and from each leg.
Arteries and veins branch off from the femoral artery to supply oxygen-rich blood to the male reproductive organs.
The internal pudendal artery is the main vessel that supplies oxygenated blood to the penis. (In women, it supplies blood to the clitoris.) Without it, a man could not achieve an erection. Problems with blood flow to the penis can result in erectile dysfunction and other conditions.
Other arteries of the male pelvis include:
- Testicular arteries: Also known as the internal spermatic arteries, these branch from the abdominal artery and supply blood to the testes.
- Internal iliac artery: A main artery in the pelvis despite being only about four centimeters long, it helps supply blood to the reproductive organs, buttock muscles, and other areas in the pelvis.
- Inferior vesical: This artery supplies oxygenated blood to the bladder.
Along with major arteries, a major nerve — the sciatic nerve — runs from the bottom of the spine, behind the pelvic bone, and down the back of each leg. When this spinal nerve becomes compressed, it causes pain in the lower back and legs known as sciatica.
Other important nerves in the region include:
- Pudendal nerve: This major nerve in the pelvic region branches off to several areas, especially the external genitalia. It serves not only the genitals, but the bladder and rectum.
- Peroneal nerve: This nerve branches off from the pudendal nerve from the sciatic nerve and serves the lower leg, foot, and toes. It branches off to the dorsal nerve of the penis.
- Dorsal nerve of the penis: This is the major nerve of the penis and is the deepest branch of the pudendal nerve. It is responsible for motor functions and sensation in the penis’s skin.
The dorsal nerve of the penis is critical to erection. Although the signal for erection originates in the brain, the dorsal nerve sends and receives signals to increase blood flow. Additionally, this nerve receives the physical stimulation that usually ends with ejaculation.