What is the Femoral Vein?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The femoral vein is a blood vessel that returns blood in the leg to the heart via the iliac veins. This vein is of interest because it is the largest vein in the groin area, and occlusions, a formal way of saying “blockages,” in it can lead to serious health problems. People can experience damage to this vein as a result of clotting conditions, traumatic accidents, and surgical complications.

The femoral vein and artery are side by side, so once the artery is found, so is the vein.
The femoral vein and artery are side by side, so once the artery is found, so is the vein.

The human venous system is a vast and complex network of veins and capillaries that start out small at the extremities and slowly join together to create larger and larger veins, which eventually bring the blood back to the heart. Understanding the layout of this network is important for medical professionals, as certain veins are especially critical.

The femoral vein, like most veins, carries deoxygenated blood to the heart.
The femoral vein, like most veins, carries deoxygenated blood to the heart.

This vein is part of an anatomical structure known as the femoral triangle. The femoral triangle is located on the inside of the upper inner thigh, and it includes the femoral vein, femoral artery, and femoral nerve. The artery and vein are both contained inside the femoral sheath, while the nerve lies outside. This anatomical structure is key to supplying healthy blood to the leg, and recycling old blood up to the heart.

If the femoral vein becomes blocked by a blood clot, blood will be unable to drain from the leg.
If the femoral vein becomes blocked by a blood clot, blood will be unable to drain from the leg.

For people who are interested in hands-on anatomy, the vein can be found by feeling the inner thigh to find the pulse in the femoral artery. The artery and vein lie side by side, so once the artery is found, one has also discovered the vein. Dissection would reveal how it wanders down the leg, and the joining of various smaller veins to bring blood up from the leg to meet this major vessel.

A number of branches and tributaries in the leg join up to create the femoral vein. As the vein travels up into the abdomen, it turns into the external iliac vein, and eventually meets up with the inferior vena cava to bring blood from the lower half of the body up to the heart. This blood has become deoxygenated as it circulates through the body.

If the vein becomes blocked by a blood clot or trauma, blood will be unable to drain from the leg. In the case of a clot, the material could also break free and travel to the heart, creating a life-threatening cardiac emergency. For this reason, femoral vein occlusions are treated very seriously by healthcare professionals until they are resolved, to reduce the risk of developing complications.

The femoral vein lies beside the femoral artery, which supplies the femoral pulse.
The femoral vein lies beside the femoral artery, which supplies the femoral pulse.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

kentuckycat

@jcraig - Although it is possible to have your leg amputated by severing the femoral artery, this is usually common for most significant arteries in the body that are in limbs.

As far as the femoral vein goes, to my knowledge it is just as you said. It is not as dangerous as severing an artery but it can be a serious situation from the fact that it is a big vein and severe blood loss can occur and make it a life threatening situation. The question I have is how long does someone have before they succumb to blood loss if they were to sever their femoral vein?

jcraig

I have heard stories about soldiers getting shot in the leg and eventually succumbing to their wounds. Although it is simply a bullet wound in the leg there are two specific things in the leg you do not want shot, that is the femoral artery and vein.

I have heard that most of the time any severe severing of the femoral artery is fatal and most of the time results in amputation of the leg. The femoral vein is not as bad if it is severed, but still a very severe injury that could easily cause a life threatening situation and needs to be attended to immediately.

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