The femoral vein is a blood vessel that returns blood in the leg to the heart via the iliac veins. This vein is of interest because it is the largest vein in the groin area, and occlusions, a formal way of saying “blockages,” in it can lead to serious health problems. People can experience damage to this vein as a result of clotting conditions, traumatic accidents, and surgical complications.
The human venous system is a vast and complex network of veins and capillaries that start out small at the extremities and slowly join together to create larger and larger veins, which eventually bring the blood back to the heart. Understanding the layout of this network is important for medical professionals, as certain veins are especially critical.
This vein is part of an anatomical structure known as the femoral triangle. The femoral triangle is located on the inside of the upper inner thigh, and it includes the femoral vein, femoral artery, and femoral nerve. The artery and vein are both contained inside the femoral sheath, while the nerve lies outside. This anatomical structure is key to supplying healthy blood to the leg, and recycling old blood up to the heart.
For people who are interested in hands-on anatomy, the vein can be found by feeling the inner thigh to find the pulse in the femoral artery. The artery and vein lie side by side, so once the artery is found, one has also discovered the vein. Dissection would reveal how it wanders down the leg, and the joining of various smaller veins to bring blood up from the leg to meet this major vessel.
A number of branches and tributaries in the leg join up to create the femoral vein. As the vein travels up into the abdomen, it turns into the external iliac vein, and eventually meets up with the inferior vena cava to bring blood from the lower half of the body up to the heart. This blood has become deoxygenated as it circulates through the body.
If the vein becomes blocked by a blood clot or trauma, blood will be unable to drain from the leg. In the case of a clot, the material could also break free and travel to the heart, creating a life-threatening cardiac emergency. For this reason, femoral vein occlusions are treated very seriously by healthcare professionals until they are resolved, to reduce the risk of developing complications.