The popliteal artery is the major source of blood supply to the lower leg. The femoral artery becomes the popliteal artery as it passes through the hiatus of the adductor magnus muscle and enters the popliteal fossa. It generally ends at the inferior border of the popliteus muscle where it divides into the anterior and posterior tibial arteries. It lies directly behind the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus.1 Injuries to the popliteal artery during anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction or arthroscopic meniscectomy are extremely rare.2 The popliteal artery is closely related to the posterior capsule of the knee joint, being separated from it only by a small amount of fat. The artery also kinks forward when the knee is flexed, placing it close to the posterior horn of the medial meniscus. It is thus imperative that surgery in the posterior aspects of the knee is performed under direct visualization. If an arterial injury is suspected following surgery of the knee an opinion from a vascular surgeon should be sought urgently.
As a New York medical malpractice attorney we understand the delayed recognition of a popliteal artery lesion is a major cause of amputation of the affected extremity. Further, true spasm of the popliteal artery is rare. It is thus dangerous to diagnose arterial spasms since in reality thrombosis is usually present. It is further, axiomatic that the absence of pulses in an extremity is due to arterial injury until proven otherwise. Additionally, compartment syndrome may accompany vascular injury secondary to prolonged ischemia, venous injury or partial laceration to the artery with bleeding into the compartments.