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


Hi this is Peter from AnatomyZone, and in this tutorial I'm going to give you an overview of the lower limb arterial blood supply. So following this tutorial I'll do separate tutorials which look at different areas of the lower limb in more detail. So this will just provide a broad overview.

Starting at the abdominal aorta, the abdominal aorta splits into common iliac arteries. So you've got a right and a left common iliac artery.The common iliac arteries then divide into the internal and external branches. So you've got a right and left internal and external iliac artery. The internal iliac arteries give off several branches - it's quite a complicated artery with multiple branches involving pelvic structures, the gluteal region and also giving off some branches which descend to supply the thigh.
So two branches, the obturator artery and the inferior gluteal artery enter the thigh. The superior gluteal artery and the inferior gluteal artery supply the gluteal region, but we'll take a look at the branches of the internal iliac artery in more detail in separate tutorials. So coming back to the external iliac artery. This artery becomes the common femoral artery as it crosses under the inguinal ligament to enter the femoral triangle.
The common femoral artery then gives off a deep branch known as the profunda femoris artery, so this is known as the deep femoral artery and it has two main branches. So you've got the lateral circumflex artery and the medial circumflex artery, and then the profunda femoris terminates as perforating branches, which are known as perforating branches as they perforate the adductor magnus muscle.
So the common femoral divides into the profunda femoris, and it continues as the superficial femoral artery - the SFA. So the SFA travels through the adductor canal which is a muscular tunnel in the thigh, beginning at the bottom of the femoral triangle and ending at the adductor hiatus. You can see the adductor hiatus in this model here, as its an opening in the adductor magnus muscle and this allows the SFA to pass through into the posterior compartment of the thigh. So as the SFA passes through this hiatus into the posterior compartment of the thigh, it becomes known as the popliteal artery.
This artery passes between the gastrocnemius and the popliteus muscles, and it gives off genicular branches which supply the knee joint, and it then divides into anterior and posterior tibial arteries. So the posterior tibial artery which you can see here, descends along the superficial surface of the deep posterior muscles of the posterior compartment, and it gives off a fibular artery, which is referred to sometimes as the peroneal artery, and this branch supplies the lateral compartment of the leg.
The other branch of the popliteal artery is the anterior tibial artery. So the anterior tibial artery passes into the anterior compartment of the leg through a gap in the interosseus membrane between the tibia and the fibula. It then descends down the leg and at the foot, the anterior tibial artery becomes the dorsalis pedis artery. The posterior tibial artery on the other hand, enters the foot via the tarsal tunnel, winding behind the medial malleolus, and then it splits into the lateral and the medial plantar arteries, which are present on the plantar aspect of the foot.
The posterior tibial pulse is palpable inferiorly and posteriorly behind the medial malleolus. Now coming back to the dorsalis pedis artery - this gives off the deep plantar artery between the first and second metatarsals, and this anastamoses on the plantar aspect of the foot with the branch of the lateral plantar artery to form the deep plantar arch on the sole of the foot. We've taken a look now at the main arterial supply to the lower limb. In the next tutorials, we're going to take a look in more detail at some of the branches of the vessels we've talked about in this tutorial. So hopefully that's given you a good overview of the arterial supply to the lower limb.