The popliteal artery is the continuation of the femoral, and courses through the popliteal fossa. It extends from the opening in the Adductor magnus, at the junction of the middle and lower thirds of the thigh, downward and lateralward to the intercondyloid fossa of the femur, and then vertically downward to the lower border of the Popliteus, where it divides into anterior and posterior tibial arteries.
Relations.—In front of the artery from above downward are the popliteal surface of the femur (which is separated from the vessel by some fat), the back of the knee-joint, and the fascia covering the Popliteus. Behind, it is overlapped by the Semimembranosus above, and is covered by the Gastrocnemius and Plantaris below. In the middle part of its course the artery is separated from the integument and fasciæ by a quantity of fat, and iscrossed from the lateral to the medial side by the tibial nerve and the popliteal vein, the vein being between the nerve and the artery and closely adherent to the latter. On itslateral side, above, are the Biceps femoris, the tibial nerve, the popliteal vein, and the lateral condyle of the femur; below, the Plantaris and the lateral head of the Gastrocnemius. On its medial side, above, are the Semimembranosus and the medial condyle of the femur; below, the tibial nerve, the popliteal vein, and the medial head of the Gastrocnemius. The relations of the popliteal lymph glands to the artery are described above.
Peculiarities in Point of Division.—Occasionally the popliteal artery divides into its terminal branches opposite the knee-joint. The anterior tibial under these circumstances usually passes in front of the Popliteus.
Unusual Branches.—The artery sometimes divides into the anterior tibial and peroneal, the posterior tibial being wanting, or very small. Occasionally it divides into three branches, the anterior and posterior tibial, and peroneal.
Branches.—The branches of the popliteal artery are:
Muscular: Superior and sural
Medial Superior Genicular
Lateral Superior Genicular.
Medial Inferior Genicular.
Lateral Inferior Genicular.