Blood Vessels and Lymphatics of the Foot and Ankle

The joints and muscles need to be maintained properly. Blood is carried into the ankle and foot via the arteries and returned to the heart in the veins. Lymphatic fluid is drained via the lymphatic vessels.

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The following arteries, which bring blood to the ankle and foot, include branches of the anterior and posterior tibial arteries. The anterior and posterior tibial arteries are the terminal branches of the popliteal artery located behind the knee.

  • Anterior tibial artery: This artery stems from the popliteal artery and runs through the anterior compartment of the leg between the tibialis anterior and the extensor digitorum longus muscles. It supplies the anterior compartment of the leg and continues into the foot as the dorsal pedis artery.

  • Posterior tibial artery: Starting at the popliteal artery, this artery runs through the posterior compartment of the leg down deep to the flexor retinaculum and continues into the sole of the foot, where it branches into the lateral and medial plantar arteries.

  • Fibular artery: This artery branches off the proximal posterior tibial artery. It also runs down the posterior compartment of the leg behind the fibula. It supplies the posterior compartment and has perforating branches that supply the lateral compartment of the leg.

  • Dorsal pedis artery: Coming from the anterior tibial artery, this artery runs along the dorsum of the foot. It passes through the first dorsal interosseous muscle as the deep plantar artery to the sole of the foot where it forms part of the plantar arch (deep plantar arch) with the lateral plantar artery. In the dorsum of the foot it gives off three branches: the lateral tarsal artery, the arcuate artery, and the first dorsal metatarsal artery. The arcuate artery gives off the second, third, and fourth metatarsal arteries.

  • Deep plantar artery: This artery runs down into the sole of the foot and joins the lateral plantar artery to form the plantar arch.

  • Metatarsal arteries: These arteries run down into the clefts between the toes and branch into digital arteries that supply the toes.

  • Lateral plantar artery: Helping to form the plantar arch, this artery is a branch of the posterior tibial artery, located on the lateral side of the sole of the foot.

  • Medial plantar artery: This artery, another branch of the posterior tibial artery, is located on the medial side of the sole of the foot.

  • Plantar metatarsal arteries: The deep plantar arch gives off these arteries as well as many other branches that supply blood to the sole of the foot.

Deep veins drain blood from the foot, and they accompany the matching arteries. Superficial veins located on the dorsum drain most of the blood into dorsal metatarsal veins, which go on to form the dorsal venous arch and a dorsal venous network. A plantar venous network converges with the dorsal venous arch to form the great and small saphenous veins.

Lymph is collected in superficial and deep lymphatic vessels that follow the veins. The medial superficial lymphatic vessels drain into the superficial inguinal lymph nodes and then into the deep inguinal nodes. Lateral superficial vessels and deep vessels drain into popliteal lymph nodes.

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