What Is a Leg Aneurysm?

A leg aneurysm is diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.
Pulsing in the back of the knee is a common symptoms of a popliteal aneurysm.
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  • Written By: S . Seegars
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2014
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A leg aneurysm is a weak, bulging area located in the wall of a blood vessel found in the thigh, knee, or calf. It is the result of an anomalous expansion to greater than 150% of the normal width of the blood vessel. Although it may have several known symptoms, more often, there are no symptoms to alert an individual that such an aneurysm exists. Treatment includes making lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.

There are two types of leg aneurysms. An aneurysm located in the femoral artery in the thigh is called a femoral aneurysm. The second type is found in the popliteal artery, which supplies blood for the knee, thigh, and calf. The popliteal artery can burst, causing bleeding that is life-threatening. An aneurysm in this artery also can cause a blood clot, which could require amputation of the leg.

A person with a leg aneurysm will not always experience symptoms, making it nearly impossible to know that there is any need for concern. Symptoms that are experienced depend on the type of aneurysm. The most common sign of a femoral aneurysm is a pulsing sensation of the femoral artery in the groin. Common symptoms of a popliteal aneurysm include pulsing of the popliteal artery in the back of the knee, watery fluid in the lower leg, foot pain, and skin ulcers on the foot that will not heal.


Femoral and popliteal aneurysms do not have known causes, but there are several factors that can come into play. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty substances and plaque, which harden the artery and play a role in causing an aneurysm. Trauma to an artery is another contributing factor. Congenital disorders also can play a part in their formation.

The diagnosis for a leg aneurysm is made by a medical professional using one or more of several procedures. Detailed images of the aortic artery can be made using a computed axial tomography (CT or CAT) scan. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test might be performed to construct an image of the location where the aneurysm might be. Another method used for diagnosis is an angiography, in which a catheter is used to insert dye into the artery in order to track the blood flow, and it produces three-dimensional images of the aneurysm.

After the diagnosis is made, the medical professional will choose a treatment program. Modifying certain risk factors such as smoking, controlling blood sugar levels, weight loss, and controlling dietary fat intake can reduce the risk of an aneurysm. Certain medications are used to control elevated levels of fat in the blood and to control high blood pressure. Surgery to replace the artery with a graft from other arteries or veins in the body could be required, or a bypass surgery can be performed instead to route blood around the area where the aneurysm is located.


Discuss this Article

Post 4

My Dad is 73 and has four aneurysms. It started with a AAA. (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm). Two years later, he got two aneurysms in his left leg, and one aneurysm in the right leg.

He was just operated on for the two in the left leg. The one in the right leg is tiny so it doesn't need surgery repair right now.

If you have any doubts if you have an aneurysm please go for a scan. This is a silent killer if undetected. Trust me.

Post 3

I have that same pain in my lower leg just above my ankle, on the outside of my leg. I was just diagnosed with an aneurysm behind my knee! Get to a doctor ASAP!

Post 2

Get it scanned ASAP.

Post 1

I have stabbing pain in my lower leg, just above my ankle, on the outside of my leg. It comes on with no warning and not often, however it is starting to happen more frequently, like twice in three days. It is extremely painful. The pain will last for several minutes and finally eases off.

I am a white female, 63 years old, smoker and have gained a lot of weight for some reason, along with chronic back pain. I experience "charley horses" in that leg quite frequently and now this. Do you have any comment or recommendation?

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