Author: Dr Peter de Souza
Last modified: 17 December 2020


Hi this is Peter from AnatomyZone, and in this tutorial we're going to take a look at the arterial supply to the thigh. There are three arteries which supply the thigh, so you've got the femoral artery, the obturator artery and the inferior gluteal artery.

The obturator artery and the inferior gluteal artery are branches of the internal iliac artery, and I looked at these in the previous tutorial where we looked at the branches of the internal iliac.


The femoral artery is the largest branch which enters the thigh and supplies most of the lower limb. In this tutorial we're going to focus on the various different branches of the femoral artery.


Looking at this model here we can see the external iliac artery and what happens is that it passes under the inguinal ligament to become the common femoral artery. The common femoral artery enters the femoral triangle and it gives off four branches. Now I've just zoomed in a little bit further and you can see these four branches here. The first one is the superficial circumflex branch. This one over here is the superficial epigastric branch, and then we've got the superficial external pudendal and the deep external pudendal arteries. So those are the four branches which come off the common femoral artery.


Now moving a bit further down we can see that there are several branches which are given off in the thigh. So you've got the deep artery of the thigh which is called the profunda femoris artery and you can see that here. This artery is the main supply to the adductor, the extensor and the flexor muscles of the thigh.


The profunda femoris gives off three main branches. You've got the lateral circumflex, the medial circumflex and then you've got perforating arteries - perforating branches. The lateral circumflex artery has three branches. The first branch you can see here is the descending branch and then coming up to the shaft of the femur, you've got two branches. One ascends up onto the neck of the femur. And the other one is called the transverse branch and it winds round laterally, around the proximal shaft of the femur as you can see here.


The medial circumflex artery you can see here coming off a bit more posteriorly from the profunda femoris artery. If I just rotate the model around you can see how it has two branches. It's got one branch which, like the branch of the lateral circumflex artery, ascends. So there's an ascending branch which anastomoses with the ascending branch of the the lateral circumflex artery. And there's also a transverse branch which also anastomoses with the transverse branch of the lateral circumflex artery. So the lateral and medial circumflex branches arise quite proximally on the profunda femoris artery, and if we move distally, we can take a look at the perforating branches.


If I just rotate the model slightly, you can see that there's three perforating branches and one terminal branch. And these perforating branches penetrate the adductor magnus muscle. And if I rotate around to a posterior view, so what you can see is that these these perforating arteries give off these ascending and descending branches, which unite to form a channel which runs longitudinally.


So we've taken a look now at the branches of the common femoral artery and the branches of the deep femoral artery. So what happens after the deep branch is given off, you can see here that it continues down, and the continuation of the common femoral artery after the deep branch is given off, is the superficial femoral artery. So I'm just going to continue to bring the model inferiorly, and you can see what happens as it reaches the distal femur.


The superficial femoral artery then passes through this hole in the adductor magnus muscle, known as the adductor hiatus, and when it does this it becomes the popliteal artery as it enters the posterior compartment.


Now just before the superficial femoral artery leaves via the adductor hiatus, it gives off this branch known as the descending genicular artery. The descending genicular artery itself has two main branches, you've got the saphenous branch which passes medially and then anastomoses with the medial superior genicular - which we'll take a look at in the next part of the tutorial series. And the other branch is this articular branch, so you've got lots of articular branches which anastomose around the knee joint.


So that's a look at some of the branches which provide the arterial supply to the thigh. In the next tutorials we'll take a look at the arterial supply to the knee, the leg, and the foot.