A popliteal artery aneurysm is an irregular bulge that occurs in the wall of the artery located behind the knee joint. It is a type of lower extremity aneurysm.


A popliteal artery aneurysm may not cause any noticeable symptoms. The first symptom may be pain the lower leg that occurs with walking (claudication). Other signs and symptoms of a popliteal artery aneurysm include:

  • Knee pain
  • Lower leg pain
  • Swelling behind the knee
  • Pulsing sensation behind the knee


An aneurysm is a ballooning in a weak spot in an artery wall. Many different things can cause the popliteal artery wall to become weak, including:

  • Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Wear and tear of the popliteal artery due to repetitive use of the knee joint
  • Weakening of the artery wall

Risk factors

Popliteal artery aneurysms are rare. They are more common in men than in women.

Popiteal artery aneurysms often occur in men with abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a swelling of the wall of the body's main artery (aorta). Anyone diagnosed with popliteal artery aneurysm should be screened for AAA.

Other risk factors for popliteal artery aneurysm include:

  • Increasing age
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Smoking
  • Narrowing of a heart valve (stenotic disease)
  • Having three or more aneurysms anywhere in the body


Complications of popliteal artery aneurysm include blood clots (thrombosis) and, rarely, rupture of the aneurysm. Thrombosis of a popliteal artery aneurysm can cause a severe lack of blood flow (ischemia) in the lower leg, which may result in loss of the limb.

Sudden leg ischemia can cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • A change in skin color in the affected area
  • No pulse behind the knee
  • Skin in the affected area feels cold
  • Numbness in the leg
  • Inability to move the foot

The risk of popliteal artery aneurysm rupture is low.


Smoking and high blood pressure (hypertension) increase the risk of blood vessel (vascular) problems that can lead to popliteal artery and other aneurysms. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle — such as not smoking, eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise — can help prevent heart disease and blood vessel damage.

Popliteal artery aneurysm care at Mayo Clinic

Feb. 23, 2022
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