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What Is Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is a relatively rare developmental disorder in which the popliteal artery and the gastrocnemius muscle in the calf are oriented abnormally with respect to each other. Symptoms of this condition can include leg pain, numbness or tingling of the feet and toes, or a lowered pulse rate in the affected artery. Treatment for popliteal artery entrapment syndrome may include the use of over-the-counter or prescription medication, activity restriction, or surgical intervention. Complications such as the formation of blood clots are possible if this disorder is left untreated, so it is important for patients to schedule regular appointments with a doctor once diagnosed with this condition.

Patients with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome often have trouble walking normally or performing ordinary tasks due to leg pain, which tends to worsen during physical activity. The affected artery may become compressed, resulting in frequent muscle cramps which often decrease in intensity during periods of rest. If the associated nerves become involved, numbness or tingling sensations may be experienced. Electrical shock feelings may indicate that nerve damage has occurred. A physical exam by a doctor often reveals that the pulse in the popliteal artery is lower than normal, suggesting that proper blood flow has been diminished.

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A specialized test known as an arteriogram can be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. This procedure may be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending upon the overall health of the patient. Contrast dye is injected into the popliteal artery, and an x-ray is performed so that the supervising physician can detect problems such as blockages or structural damage to the artery. Once a definitive diagnosis of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome has been made, an individualized treatment plan can be implemented.

Mild cases of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome may be treated with a combination of lifestyle modification and medication. Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and blood thinners are among the drugs that are often used to treat symptoms of this disorder. If symptoms are relatively mild and only occur as a result of strenuous exercise, physical activity may be limited in an effort to avoid the need for more invasive treatment methods. Eventually, most patients with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome must undergo one or more surgical procedures in order to correct damage to the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves.

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