Femoral artery

Last revised by William Howden on 24 Mar 2023

The femoral artery (FA) (TA: arteria femoralis) 6 is the continuation of the external iliac artery (EIA) below the level of the inguinal ligament. As well as supplying oxygenated blood to the lower limb, it gives off smaller branches to the anterior abdominal wall and superficial pelvis. 

The femoral artery is commonly known clinically as the common femoral artery (CFA) and superficial femoral artery (SFA). The common femoral artery is the portion of the femoral artery between the inguinal ligament and branching of profunda femoris, and the superficial femoral artery is the portion distal to the branching of profunda femoris to the adductor hiatus.

The "superficial" adjective is considered by some as a misnomer as the artery itself runs deep in the mid-thigh, even though the nomenclature is logical in that it is to differentiate it from the profunda femoris artery which is even deeper 5! The Terminologia Anatomica and anatomists consider this division into common and superficial portions to be superfluous to requirements, and neither structure is given its own entry in the latest edition 6,7.

The femoral artery emerges underneath the inguinal ligament medial to the midpoint of the inguinal ligament and medial to the deep inguinal ring, halfway between the anterior superior iliac spine and symphysis pubis. The femoral vein lies medially.

The femoral artery runs down the front and medial side of the thigh with the first 4 cm of the vessel enclosed within the femoral sheath together with the femoral vein. Lateral but outside the sheath is the femoral nerve.

The femoral artery within the femoral triangle (~3-4 cm distal to the inguinal ligament) gives off the profunda femoris branch and ends as it passes through the adductor hiatus in adductor magnus to continue as the popliteal artery.

  • anterior: skin, superficial fascia, superficial iliac circumflex vein, superficial layer of fascia lata, anterior part of femoral sheath

  • posterior: posterior part of femoral sheath, pectineal fascia, psoas major tendon, capsule of hip joint, adductor longus, femoral vein (lower part of artery in femoral triangle)

  • lateral: femoral nerve

  • medial: femoral vein (upper part of artery)

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