Popliteal Artery Aneurysm

What is Popliteal Artery Aneurysm?

Potentially life-threatening, a Popliteal Artery Aneurysm (PAA) is a weak spot or bulge in the artery that sends blood to knee joints, thighs, and calves. Symptoms can include sudden, unexplained pain behind the knee joint, a collection of fluid in the affected area of the leg (edema), foot ulcers that aren’t healing, or foot pain.

What are the Symptoms of Popliteal Artery Aneurysm?

Causes and Risk Factors

It’s not known what causes PAAs, although plaque build-up in arteries (atherosclerosis) may be a contributing factor. Sudden trauma to the popliteal artery itself may also cause an aneurysm.

Risk factors include:

  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Prior surgery for blood vessel reconstruction in the legs
  • Smoking (linked to damage in blood vessels)
  • Bacterial infections

Popliteal Artery Aneurysm Causes

While the causes of popliteal artery aneurysms are unknown, there are many risk factors that can lead to their development. Systemic atherosclerosis is a major risk factor in the occurrence of popliteal artery aneurysm, as it contributes to occlusion of the arteries.

Chronic conditions such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and peripheral artery disease are associated with inflammation and degradation of arterial tissue, which can lead to factors that cause popliteal artery aneurysm.

There are also lifestyle factors that increase the risk, such as smoking, high saturated fat intake, and high sugar intake. All of these factors are considered to be drivers of inflammation and can contribute to the degradation of vascular structures. A history of emboli or current emboli in other parts of the body can also lead to the development of a blockage leading to aneurysm in the popliteal region.

Other factors to be considered are injury to the posterior knee area and previous vascular surgery in the lower extremities. It is also suspected that genetic factors may predispose some to popliteal artery aneurysm as well.

How is Popliteal Artery Aneurysm Treated?

When a suspected PAA occurs, diagnosis typically includes an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or an angiography (X-ray of blood vessels). Surgery is usually necessary to remove the blood clot and repair the damaged artery, often with a bypass procedure. There are two forms of open surgery for PAAs:

  • Vein graft: The affected artery is bypassed with veins from another area of the body.
  • Prosthetic graft: An artificial tube is created and placed in the affected area.

Endovascular Repair

Endovascular repair as an increasingly common option for patients who aren’t good candidates for open-chest aneurysm repair. It is a less invasive procedure that’s often less painful and risky since it involves smaller incisions and the use of tubes (catheters). A stent graft is used to reinforce the weak spot in the artery.

If undetected or untreated, there is always the risk a popliteal artery aneurysm may burst. If this happens, a blood clot may form in the leg and require amputation. Treatment depends on the size of the aneurysm, where a clot forms, when it’s detected, and the overall health of the affected patient.

Popliteal Artery Aneurysm Prevention

While the causes of popliteal artery aneurysms are unknown, there are many risk factors that can lead to their development. Systemic atherosclerosis is a major risk factor in the occurrence of popliteal artery aneurysm, as it contributes to occlusion of the arteries.

Chronic conditions such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and peripheral artery disease are associated with inflammation and degradation of arterial tissue, which can lead to factors that cause popliteal artery aneurysm.

There are also lifestyle factors that increase the risk, such as smoking, high saturated fat intake, and high sugar intake. All of these factors are considered to be drivers of inflammation and can contribute to the degradation of vascular structures. A history of emboli or current emboli in other parts of the body can also lead to the development of a blockage leading to aneurysm in the popliteal region.

Other factors to be considered are injury to the posterior knee area and previous vascular surgery in the lower extremities. It is also suspected that genetic factors may predispose some to popliteal artery aneurysm as well.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
January 09, 2018