Popliteal fossa

Last revised by Rui Wen Liu on 5 Apr 2023

The popliteal fossa (plural: fossae) is a diamond or rhomboid-shaped fat-filled space in the posterior knee. The space is extremely dynamic, allowing for its neurovascular contents to move during the extreme range of motion produced by knee flexion and extension.

Gross anatomy

  • superolateral: medial border of biceps femoris muscle

  • superomedial: lateral border of semimembranosus muscle (with the tendon of semitendinosus superficial to it)

  • inferolateral: medial border of the lateral head of gastrocnemius

  • inferomedial: lateral border of the medial head of gastrocnemius

  • floor: (superior to inferior) popliteal surface of the femur, knee joint capsule, popliteus muscle

  • roof: skin, subcutaneous tissue, fascia lata

See the mnemonic here.




  • popliteal vein: in between the artery and tibial nerve

  • short saphenous vein: ascends and pierces the roof to enter the popliteal vein in the lower half of the fossa before joining the popliteal vein



  • fat

  • popliteal lymph nodes

  • a variable number of bursae 4

At all levels, the popliteal vein is found between the popliteal artery and the tibial nerve 2.

Related pathology

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: boundaries
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  • Figure 2: contents
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  • Figure 3: with labels (diagram)
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  • Figure 4: popliteal fossa (no labels)
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  • Figure 5: lymphatics of the popliteal fossa (Gray's illustration)
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