Collateral circulation of the femoral and genicular systems in human lower limbs is highly uncommon

Beeran Jethwa, Ramaswamy Sharma, Jordan Tanner, Omid B. Rahimi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The descending branch of the lateral circumflex artery is a septocutaneous vessel that is vital for free and pedicle thigh flap transfer surgeries when repairing tissue defects. It also forms an anastomosis with the superior lateral genicular artery to create a collateral pathway for circumventing occlusions in the superficial femoral artery (SFA). Many anatomical texts and atlases imply the persistence of this anastomosis. However, previous studies indicate variability in the source of the arteries that form the anastomosis, and have reported cases where an anastomosis does not exist. We hypothesized that variations from the conventional accepted pattern can be predicted by comparisons of arterial diameters, and that unconventional anastomoses may be present to facilitate collateral circulation to the limb. Fifty-one limbs were dissected and analyzed to establish the source of the descending branch of the lateral circumflex artery, classify the types of anastomoses, and compare the diameters of the descending branch of the lateral circumflex artery, the SFA and the profunda femoris artery to the common femoral artery (CFA). Vessel diameters were normalized to the diameter of the CFA to allow comparison of limbs from both sexes and to minimize the effects of cadaver size on correlating vessel size to the presence or absence of collateral circuits. We report that 62.7% of limbs (32/51) had typical branching patterns; however, only 27.4% of limbs (14/51) had any anastomosis to connect the proximal and distal regions of the thigh. Importantly, the SFA had a wider relative diameter in limbs without anastomoses than in limbs that had normal anastomoses, perhaps precluding the formation of a collateral pathway. Overall, collateral circulation of the lower limb was highly uncommon, in contrast to information inferred from anatomical texts. This study suggests the need for more thorough procedures for determining viable anastomoses prior to thigh flap surgeries to ensure flap survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-797
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • anastomoses
  • anterolateral thigh flap surgery
  • cadaveric study
  • collateral circulation
  • descending branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery
  • vessel diameter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology
  • Histology
  • Developmental Biology


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