Lateral circumflex femoral artery
The lateral circumflex femoral artery is a short branch of the deep femoral artery. The artery courses laterally splitting the femoral nerve into anterior and posterior divisions in the femoral triangle. The artery terminates by dividing into three terminal branches: ascending, descending and transverse branches.
The main function of the lateral circumflex femoral artery is to supply blood to the hip joint, knee joint, parts of the femur, quadriceps femoris, tensor fasciae latae, as well as skin of the anterolateral aspect of the thigh.
|Origin||Deep femoral artery|
|Branches||Ascending, descending and transverse branches|
|Supply||Hip joint, knee joint, femoral head, femoral neck and greater trochanter of femur, quadriceps femoris, tensor fasciae latae, skin over anterolateral thigh. Can contribute to sartorius and gluteal region vascular supply|
This article will discuss the anatomy and function of the lateral circumflex femoral artery.
The lateral circumflex femoral artery arises from the deep femoral artery (also known as profunda femoris or deep artery of thigh) near its root or occasionally directly from the femoral artery. It extends laterally across the femoral triangle in which it splits the femoral nerve into anterior and posterior divisions, passing between them.
It then courses deep to sartorius and rectus femoris where it terminates by dividing into three terminal branches. The lateral circumflex femoral artery and its branches curve around the superior aspect of the femur, hence the circumflex’ in its name.
Branches and supply
The lateral circumflex femoral artery has three terminal branches:
- The ascending branch is the first branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery. It extends superiorly along the intertrochanteric line, deep to the tensor fascia latae and passes lateral to the hip joint. At the hip joint the ascending branch anastomoses with the superior gluteal and deep circumflex iliac arteries. This anastomosis provides blood supply for the greater trochanter of femur and with branches of the medial circumflex femoral to provide blood supply for the head and neck of femur. The lateral circumflex femoral artery also supplies the tensor fasciae latae and the overlying skin. Through its anastomoses with the superior gluteal and the medial circumflex femoral arteries, it can contribute to the vascular supply of the gluteal region.
- The descending branch extends inferiorly all the way to the knee joint, running deep to the rectus femoris and anterior to the vastus lateralis, right along the border between the vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius muscles. It supplies the vastus lateralis muscle and sometimes contributes to the blood supply to the rectus femoris muscle (both part of the quadriceps femoris muscle group). As it descends, it gives off several fasciocutaneous branches to the anterolateral thigh, supplying the overlying skin and fascia. Its most inferior portion forms anastomosis with the superior lateral genicular branch of the popliteal artery, thus contributing to the blood supply of the knee.
- The transverse branch is the smallest branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery extending laterally along the anterior surface of the vastus intermedius muscle. The branch then pierces vastus lateralis and wraps around the neck of femur, where it contributes to the formation of the cruciate anastomosis. It is an anastomosis between the transverse branch of the lateral circumflex femoral, transverse branch of the medial circumflex, inferior gluteal and first perforating arteries. In case of blockage between the femoral and external iliac arteries, this anastomosis provides an alternative pathway for the blood supply of the lower limb.