What Is the Profunda Femoris Artery?

Liz Thomas

The profunda femoris artery is an essential blood vessel located in the thigh. It is alternately called the deep artery of the thigh, or sometimes the deep femoral artery. A branch of the femoral artery, it travels toward the back of the leg. The profunda branch splits away from the main blood vessel, and is found next to the femur bone in the thigh. It runs along the back of the thigh muscle, and is the largest branch of the femoral artery.

Most arteries carry oxygenated blood, while most veins carry deoxygenated blood.
Most arteries carry oxygenated blood, while most veins carry deoxygenated blood.

The human body contains three branches of the profunda femoris artery. These include two circumflex arteries; the medial femoral and lateral femoral; as well as three perforating arteries. As the names imply, the words "medial" and "lateral" refer to the location of the branches. The lateral is found along the sides of the profunda, while the medial winds around the central portion of the femur.

The profunda femoris artery travels toward the back of the leg.
The profunda femoris artery travels toward the back of the leg.

The three perforating arteries are named as such because they pass through or perforate the thigh muscle tendon. The first tendon branches out to the femoral bicep and to the gluteus maximus muscles. The second provides nutrients to the femur, and is the largest of the three arteries. The third provides essential nutrients to the back of the leg.

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One of the central functions of this artery is to act as an alternative route for blood to flow into the thigh. Should other blood vessels such as the superficial femoral become blocked or damaged in any way, the profunda femoris artery will work to ensure that there is adequate blood flow to the leg. When there are no blood flow or leg problems, the profunda femoris artery supplies valuable, life-sustaining nutrients to the femur and surrounding muscles and tissues.

Injuries to this essential artery may often go undetected. This happens in part as a result of its position, and also due to its role as an alternative blood supply route. Often, injuries present themselves as late false aneurysms and it can take years before noticeable symptoms occur. Another possible cause of damage is due to orthopedic surgery, as metal screws may punch holes in the blood vessel. This artery may also become damaged when a leg bone is fractured, though this is largely dependent on the location of the fracture, and is quite rare.

The femoral artery is a main supplier of blood to the legs, and serves as a source of the femoral pulse.
The femoral artery is a main supplier of blood to the legs, and serves as a source of the femoral pulse.

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