The popliteal artery, an unusual muscular artery with wall properties similar to the aorta: Implications for susceptibility to aneurysm formation?

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Objective. The popliteal artery is, after the aorta, the most common site for aneurysm formation. Why the popliteal artery is more susceptible than other peripheral muscular arteries is unknown. An important factor may be differences in arterial wall composition as compared with other peripheral muscular arteries, which in turn affect wall properties. These are however unknown. We studied the mechanical wall properties of the popliteal artery in healthy subjects. Material and Methods. An ultrasound echo-tracking system was used to measure pulsatile changes in popliteal diameter in 108 healthy subjects (56 female, 52 male; age range, 9-82 years). In combination with blood pressure, stiffness (0), strain, cross-sectional artery wall compliance coefficient (CC), and distensibility coefficient (DC) were calculated. Intima-media thickness (IMT) was registered with a Philips P700 ultrasound scanner. Results. The popliteal diameter increased with age, and was larger in male subjects than in female subjects (P < .001). Fractional diameter change (strain) decreased with age (P < .001), and strain values were lower in male subjects than in female subjects (P < .01). Accordingly, stiffness increased with age (P < .001), with higher stiffness values in male subjects (P < .01). DC decreased with age (P < .001), with lower DC values in male subjects (P < .01). CC decreased with age, with no difference between genders (P < .001). IMT increased with age (P < .001), with higher IMT values in male subjects (P < .001). The increase in IMT did not affect distensibility. Conclusion: The wall properties of the popliteal artery are affected by age and gender, not only with an increase in diameter, but also with an age-related decrease in distensibility, with male subjects having lower distensibility than in female subjects. This seems not to be the behavior of a true muscular artery, but of a central elastic artery, such as the aorta, and might have implications for susceptibility to arterial dilatation, as well as the association of aneurysm formation between the aorta and the popliteal artery. Clinical Relevance: The popliteal artery is, after the abdominal aorta, the most common location for aneurysm formation in the arterial system. Why it is more susceptible than other arteries is unknown. This study shows that the wall function of the popliteal artery differs from other peripheral arteries, and instead show striking similarities to the abdominal aorta, indicating that the functional arrangement of arterial wall components are similar in the two arteries. This may have implications for the susceptibility to aneurysm formation, as well as the association of dilating disease between the popliteal artery and the abdominal aorta.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-842
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch