The popliteal artery extends off of the femoral artery, and it is located in the knee and the back of the leg. Its course runs near the adductor canal and the adductor hiatus. At its end, it splits into the anterior and posterior tibial arteries. During its course, the popliteal branches into other significant blood vessels. These include the sural artery and the many types of genicular arteries. As a conveyance of oxygenated blood to regions around the knee, the artery is not the same as the popliteal vein. The two blood vessels run a similar course in close proximity. Yet, vein drains deoxygenated blood and moves it up the leg, to the femoral vein. Ultimately, all deoxygenated blood ends up at the lungs and the heart, before it is recirculated into the arterial system. The popliteal artery is palpable, as a person can find and count a pulse in the back of the knee. However, once the knees are slightly flexed to about 45 degrees, the artery would be easier to locate.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Popliteal artery