Continuation of the external iliac artery as it passes below the inguinal ligament. It passes in the femoral sheath into the floor of the femoral triangle, leaving the triangle to pass into the adductor canal. It gives off a large branch called the profunda femoris (deep artery of thigh) at approximately the level of the greater trochanter.
The proximal section of artery before the profunda branches off is sometimes known as the common femoral artery and the section after the superficial femoral artery. Both terms are in common use, but are strictly speaking not accepted anatomical terminology (see also terminology for femoral vein).
The term superficial appears to have arisen to distinguish it from the profunda femoris branch. However, the anatomical definition of 'superficial' is generally reserved for structures superficial to the deep fascia. Accordingly the entire length of the femoral artery is a deep structure. Some authors have called on an alternative naming of the profunda femoris artery as the external femoral artery and the 'superficial' femoral artery as the internal femoral artery.
- Easily accessible as a route for arterial puncture and subsequent angiography or endovascular procedures.