Femoral Artery Blockage Symptoms: Diagnosis And Risk Factors

Femoral artery is a major blood vessel of the lower limb. It supplies the oxygen rich blood to muscles and tissues of thigh. Further down the artery runs as popliteal artery which supplies blood and other nutrients to the muscles and tissue of the lower leg.

Arteries of leg such as femoral and popliteal arteries are called peripheral arteries as they are located away from the heart. Femoral artery blockage is considered to be a peripheral artery disease.

Now that you know the location of femoral artery and its relevance with leg, let us know what causes femoral artery blockage.

‘Atherosclerosis’ is the major reason for femoral artery blockage. Atherosclerosis is a disease which narrows the artery. It is a chronic and progressive condition. In atherosclerosis there is build up of hard fatty material in the walls of the artery.

The material is composed of cholesterol, fats, calcium etc. This material ultimately forms a hard plaque. Once the plaque is formed it narrows the artery, hardens its walls and reduces the artery flexibility. Formation of a clot in this vessel can stop the flow of blood further down resulting into various symptoms.

Blockage of femoral artery due to atherosclerosis strongly suggests blockage of heart and brain arteries.

Even blockage of it branch (popliteal artery) is possible.

Symptoms Of Blockage In Femoral Artery

The symptom of femoral artery blockage will depend on the severity of the blockage and its size. A blockage that gradually develops may have significantly less severe symptoms as compared to a sudden femoral artery blockage. In gradual blockage allows the collateral vessels to works efficiently and take over its function and for that reason the symptoms are of lesser intensity. In sudden blockage there is no chance for the collateral to work and symptoms are severe and sudden.

Following are the symptoms a person experiences when there is femoral artery blockage:

  • When the blood flow is restricted due to the blockage, person experiences pain in his legs, calf muscles, buttocks. The pain aggravates while walking as it needs more blood and nutrients to perform the task.
  • The skin color changes to red or blue.
  • Pulsation is feeble in pedal arteries.
  • Ulcers and wounds do not heal as fast as it should, due to lack of blood supply.
  • There is decreased hair growth in the affected leg. The skin becomes delicate and thin. Ulcers form easily.
  • In worst case, gangrene can occur which may lead to amputation of the leg.
  • Impotence in men is common with femoral artery blockage.

In sudden blockage some of the above symptoms may not be present, however severe cramping pain especially on movements is present.

Femoral Artery Blockage Diagnosis And Risks

Diagnosis: after examination your doctor may suggest certain test that may help to clinch the diagnosis.

  • Doppler ultrasound of the vessels to study the volume and blood flow through the femoral artery.
  • ECG to check your heart.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography: it shows the blockages inside the arteries.
  • Peripheral angiography.
  • Blood test for cholesterol, triglyceride and test markers for artery disease.

Risk factors for femoral artery blockage include:

  • Advancing age.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride level.
  • Obesity.
  • High level of amino acid homocysteine.
  • Family history of atherosclerosis.
  • High blood pressure.

Risk of heart attack and stroke are high if femoral artery blockage is caused due to atherosclerosis as the condition can prevail in any arteries of the body.