Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, vol. 4: Pla [corr.: Ple] - Wri
Todd, Robert Bentley
and inferior thirds, and descends obliquely 
outwards and from before, backwards through 
the popliteal space, to the lower border of the 
popliteus muscle, where it terminates, after 
having gradually diminished somewhat in size, 
by dividing into the anterior and posterior 
tibial arteries. When viewed with regard to 
the vertical axis of the popliteal region, the 
artery certainly takes an oblique course out¬ 
wards ; but in reference to the mesial and 
perpendicular line of the body, this obliquity 
is more apparent than real, and depends upon 
the direction inwards which the shaft of the 
thigh bone follows ; and this appears evident 
by the artery passing vertically and midway 
between the condyles of the femur. Its course 
from before backwards is very decided until it 
has attained the superior border of the popli¬ 
teus muscle; but as the lower portion of the 
popliteus is on a plane a little anterior to the 
upper, and as the artery is applied upon its 
posterior surface the course will be changed 
for a direction forwards, so that the artery 
describes a slight curve, convex backwards, 
and the concavity corresponding with the 
back of the knee-joint. When the leg is 
flexed upon the thigh, the popliteal artery 
follows the bend of the articulation, and is 
curved forwards without lateral tortuosity, 
the curve agreeing with the angle of flexion ; 
this alternate straightening and bending of the 
artery during the movements of the leg has 
been assigned as a reason for its being so 
frequently the seat of aneurism ; on the other 
hand, it has been stated that forced extension 
of the leg, carried even to rupture of the liga¬ 
ments of the joint, may be made without in¬ 
jury to the artery. The popliteal artery is 
closely related to its accompanying vein ; as 
they are entering the space, the vein lies to 
the outer side of the artery, and superficial or 
posterior to it, and changes its relation near 
the joint only to become still more directly 
posterior : they are enveloped in a common 
sheath, which is continued from the femoral 
region (see Femoral Artery), and by which 
they are intimately connected with each other. 
The artery is at first deeply seated in the 
popliteal region, and guided into it by the 
inferior boundary of the elliptical tendinous 
opening; it then descends obliquely upon the 
flat triangular surface of the femur to the 
knee-joint, resting in its course upon a cushion 
of fat which is interposed between it and the 
bone, and thicker below than above, so as to 
well support the artery as it inclines back¬ 
wards from the femur to reach the posterior 
aspect of the joint. For some distance from 
its commencement it is concealed beneath the 
semimembranosus muscle, the thick fleshy belly 
of which obliquely crosses it behind ; emerging 
from under cover of this muscle, the artery 
continues its course to the condyles of the 
femur, between the biceps on the outer side, 
and semimembranosus and semitendinosus on 
the inner ; a considerable quantity of fat sepa¬ 
rates it from, posteriorly, the aponeurotic 
fascia, closing in the space behind, and from 
the skin. As the internal popliteal or tibial 
nerve descends vertically in the axis of this 
region, it must necessarily lie to the outer 
side of the artery in this part of its course ; 
and as the nerve is found almost immediately 
beneath the fascia, it is therefore superficial or 
posterior to the artery, from which it is sepa¬ 
rated by more or less fat. While thus buried 
in fat, three or four lymphatic glands are 
closely related to the artery, often indeed sur¬ 
rounding it, one to either side, another super¬ 
ficial, and a fourth occasionally found between 
it and the femur. Should any of these glands 
become enlarged, the impulse such swelling 
would receive from the artery might lead to 
its being mistaken for aneurism. We next 
find the popliteal artery crossing the bend of 
the knee-joint, and resting upon its posterior 
ligament ; it descends between the condyles 
of the femur and the two heads of the gas¬ 
trocnemius to the upper border of the popli¬ 
teus muscle: the little fleshy belly of the 
plantaris is also related to its outer side. In 
this stage the accompanying vein is more 
directly behind it, and the tibial nerve, coming 
into closer relation with the artery, from 
which it is separated by the vein, is also pos¬ 
terior or superficial to it, with a tendency to 
cross to its inner side. At this part of its 
course the nerve usually sends off, first, the 
communicans tibialis, and then its branches 
to the heads of the gastrocnemius, so that the 
relation which the nerve and its branches have 
to the artery at this point will readily account 
for the pain or numbness generally attendant 
on aneurismal tumours in this region ; so, also, 
for cedematous swelling of the leg under the 
samer circumstances, we have only to refer to 
the relative anatomy of the vein and artery for 
its explanation ; posteriorly, the artery is sepa¬ 
rated from the fascia and integument by more 
or less fat, and is still a considerable distance 
from the surface ; for the tendons of the ham¬ 
string muscles, and the condyles of the femur 
with the heads of the gastrocnemius, so bear 
off from the artery the skin and fascia as to 
leave it in a deep and narrow hole, resting upon 
the posterior ligament of the joint, and con¬ 
cealed behind by, first, the vein, and then the 
tibial nerve. Of course any operation upon the 
artery while thus situated would be impracti¬ 
cable. Lastly, the artery gains the posterior 
surface of the popliteus muscle, upon which 
it descends to terminate by dividing into the 
anterior and posterior tibial vessels ; this divi¬ 
sion occurs at the lower border of the muscle, 
and opposite the interval between the tibia and 
fibula. The artery is deeply concealed between 
the heads of the gastrocnemius as they ap¬ 
proach each other to unite; the tibial nerve 
crosses to gain its inner side, and the vein, 
which often receives the tibio-peroneal vein 
while upon the popliteus, is still posterior to 
the artery. 
Varieties.—The popliteal artery very seldom 
exhibits any deviation from its usual arrange¬ 
ment ; occasionally, its point of division occurs 
higher in the popliteal space. Professor Har¬ 
rison mentions to have seen the artery divide 
between the condyles of the femur. Instances


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