The popliteal artery is defined as the extension of the “superficial” femoral artery after passing through the adductor canal and adductor hiatus above the knee. The termination of the popliteal artery is its bifurcation into the anterior tibial artery and posterior tibial artery. Through numerous smaller branches, the popliteal artery supplies blood to the knee joint and muscles in the thigh and calf. It is accompanied, along its length, by the popliteal vein.

The branches of the popliteal artery are:

  • Anterior tibial artery
  • Posterior tibial artery
  • Sural artery
  • Medial superior genicular artery
  • Lateral superior genicular artery
  • Middle genicular artery
  • Lateral inferior genicular artery
  • Medial inferior genicular artery

The fibular artery typically arises from the posterior tibial artery. Therefore, the posterior tibial artery proximal to the fibular artery origin is sometimes called the tibial-peroneal trunk or tibial-fibular trunk. It could be said that the popliteal artery bifurates into the tibial-fibular trunk and anterior tibial artery.

The popliteal pulse can be palpated behind the knee when it is semi-flexed, but is generally more challenging to find than other arteries of the leg; thus, a readily detectable and easy-to-find popliteal pulse may actually suggest some pathology.

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