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Jornal Vascular Brasileiro

versão impressa ISSN 1677-5449

J. vasc. bras. vol.12 no.4 Porto Alegre out./dez. 2013  Epub 25-Set-2013 

Case Reports

Ruptured true superficial femoral artery aneurysm

Ani Loize Arendt1 

Robinson de Menezes do Amaral1 

Mariana Sesterhenn Vieira1 

Rafael de Nogueira Ribeiro1 

Rodrigo Argenta1 

1Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição - HNSC, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil


Femoral artery aneurysms are rare and generally affect elderly patients. They are often diagnosed in combination with aneurysms in other locations, such as peripheral and aortic aneurysms. This case report describes a young patient whose superficial femoral artery (SFA) had a clinical presentation suggestive of a ruptured aneurysm. The patient underwent standard treatment, with aneurysmectomy and interposition of the ipsilateral saphenous vein. A review of the literature confirms the rarity of this case

Key words: superficial femoral artery; ruptured aneurysm


Degenerative, isolated, true aneurysms of the superficial femoral artery (SFA) are rare and probably only account for 1% of all femoral artery aneurysms1 and 0.5% of peripheral aneurysms2.

Aneurysms of the SFA are normally an incidental finding, but they can also present in combination with distal ischemia, a pulsating mass in the thigh or a painful and pulsating mass, if they rupture or there is hemorrhaging3.

Complications including thrombosis1 , 2 , 4, distal embolization1 , 4 or rupture1 , 2 , 4 can occur, but are less frequent than in patients with popliteal artery aneurysms1. The incidence of complications suggests that resection and revascularization should be elective, while investigation is mandatory for peripheral aneurysms and aortoiliac aneurysms3.

This case report presents the treatment and outcome of a ruptured SFA aneurysm in a young patient with no diagnosed etiology, and provides a brief review of the relevant literature.


The patient was a 27-year-old, black, male student from the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. He did not take injectable drugs, but was a smoker and user of cocaine and marijuana. There was no history of previous traumas, surgery or chronic degenerative diseases.

The patient sought emergency hospital treatment for sudden pain and progressive swelling of the left thigh.

On presentation the patient had no fever and had normal blood pressure (120/80 mmHg). Cardiac auscultation findings were normal, with a regular 82 bpm heartbeat. Pulmonary auscultation revealed uniformly distributed vesicle murmurs. An abdominal examination found nothing unusual.

Right lower limb pulses were normal (2) at the groin (femoral), popliteal and distal (pedal and posterior tibial pulses) regions. The left lower limb femoral pulse was normal (2) and the popliteal and distal pulses were subdued (1), but present. There was a large pulsating mass in the mid third of the left thigh (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Mass in the mid third of the left thigh. 

There were no significant blood test abnormalities and electrolytes and renal function tests were normal.

Emergency color Doppler ultrasound of the artery revealed an image with a greatest diameter of 6.0 cm within the topography of the mid third of the superficial femoral artery, with turbulent interior flow, poorly-defined limits and mural thrombus. These characteristics suggested a ruptured aneurysm of the superficial femoral artery.

Arteriography showed that the abdominal and iliac aortas were patent, with no significant obstructions, and that the mid segment of the right superficial femoral artery was dilated. The distal segment showed signs of compression by the adjacent mass and the distal superficial femoral and popliteal arteries had flow, primarily originating in collateral branches (Figures 2, 3 and 4).

Figures 2, 3 and 4 Arteriography. Aneurysm of mid segment of the SFA with occlusion below and reinhabitation of the distal superficial femoral artery and the popliteal artery by collateral circulation. 

The patient underwent exploratory surgery of the left lower limb. There was a large-volume hematoma related to the ruptured aneurysm of the left superficial femoral artery (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Surgical procedure, showing large volume hematoma with ruptured SFA aneurysm. 

The aneurysm was resected and the vascular segment reconstructed by reversed interposition of a segment of the ipsilateral saphenous vein (Figure 6). The surgical technique employed was continuous sutures at the arterial anastomoses using 6.0 polypropylene thread. The muscle planes were drawn together using continuous 3.0 nylon thread sutures and skin was sutured with separated 4.0 nylon thread sutures.

Figure 6 Aneurysmectomy of SFA and revascularization with reverse saphenous in end-to-end anastomosis. 

During the postoperative period, the patient suffered hematoma of the surgical wound and an infection, requiring a second intervention for drainage and surgical debridement, which increased the length of hospital stay and the morbidity related to the procedure. The patient was discharged from hospital 19 days after the first surgery.

The patient underwent transesophageal echocardiogram during the postoperative period, with normal results. Fragments of tissue removed during the first operation were sent for microscopic examination and bacteriological tests; but no germ growth was detected. The patient was subjected to rheumatologic tests and the results were negative.


Aneurysms of the superficial femoral artery are rare1 , 2 , 4 - 9 and tend to affect the elderly population, predominantly men1 , 7. In 18% of cases they are bilateral8. They are generally not diagnosed until complications occur7. It is believed that SFA aneurysms and their complications are less common because of the superficial femoral artery's location within Hunter's canal7.

Superficial femoral artery aneurysms are associated with aneurysms in other locations in 27-69% of cases8. The incidence of concurrent abdominal aortic aneurysms can reach 40%7. Aneurysms of peripheral arteries can be associated with etiologic factors such as syphilis; immunological disorders7, such as Behçet's disease10; inflammatory conditions7, such as Wegener's granulomatosis11; connective tissue disorders, such as the Ehlers- Danlos syndrome7 or Marfan's syndrome4 , 7, or with secondary factors such as fibrodysplasia12 or malignancies4.

Since elective surgery is associated with lower morbidity and mortality, it is of extreme importance to achieve early diagnosis1. Diagnosis is based on angiotomography, magnetic resonance angiography and vascular Doppler ultrasonography, which make it possible to visualize the aneurysm's anatomic relationships and can also be used to plan surgery13 - 15. Nevertheless, arteriography still has its place, primarily for investigation of the distal bed for planning revascularization15.

Complications, such as thrombosis, distal embolization or rupture1 , 4, can occur, but they are less common than is seen with patients with popliteal artery aneurysms1. A study conducted by Jarrett et al. described 13 patients with aneurysms of the superficial femoral artery, 76% of whom presented with critical ischemia of a lower limb or a painful mass9. The authors of a review of 14 studies covering 38 aneurysms estimated that incidence rates of rupture and thrombosis were 34% and 26% respectively and other aneurysms were also present in 39% of cases1. In view of this, aneurysms that are symptomatic or are larger than 2.5 cm must be repaired in order to avoid complications that could put the limb's viability at risk16.

Conventional open surgery is currently still the gold standard for peripheral aneurysms16 , 17, with end-to-end anastomosis1, vein grafts or prostheses1. With focal aneurysms, the aneurysm sac is opened, with evacuation of the thrombus, and an end-to-end anastomosis is performed1. Endoaneurysmorrhaphy and interposition of autologous or heterologous grafts are recommended18 for more extensive aneurysms1. While conventional treatment with femoropopliteal revascularization, preferably using an autologous vein, has achieved excellent results, there are also other techniques that can be employed2. Placement of endoprostheses has also been described as an alternative treatment option for aneurysms17. When patients do not have the clinical conditions for open surgery and particularly for the elderly, percutaneous treatment of SFA aneurysms can be performed with acceptable results19. Another treatment option could be simple ligature of the artery, primarily in cases where the patient has compensation of peripheral arterial occlusive disease20.

The results of surgical treatment are similar to what is seen after femoropopliteal revascularization. When surgery is elective, 2-year venous graft patency rates are approximately 80%, compared to 65% when using PTFE grafts1.

This case report described conventional treatment for superficial femoral artery aneurysm. While, on the one hand, choosing open surgery offers the benefit of durability, it also involves a risk of complications due to the surgery itself. The hematoma and infection that affected this patient were serious complications and extended the length of his hospital stay considerably. These factors should always be taken into consideration when choosing the treatment option, bearing in mind that endovascular treatment is of relatively easy access in our setting.


Superficial femoral artery aneurysms are rare and their presentation with rupture is even more rare. Clinical suspicion should always be aroused when faced with a pulsating tumor in the thigh. Treatment with open surgery appears to be a good option, particularly for younger patients.


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*All authors should have read and approved of the final version of the article submitted to J Vasc Bras.

Study carried out at Nossa Senhora da Conceição Hospital.

Received: January 28, 2013; Accepted: May 04, 2013

Correspondence: Ani Loize Arendt Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição (HNSC) Rua Gaston Englert, 675/160 CEP 91360-210 - Porto Alegre (RS), Brazil Fone: +55 (51) 98216461 E-mail:

Author’s information

ALA is a resident physician of vascular surgery at Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição (HNSC).

RM, MSV, and RNR are vascular surgeons at Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição (HNSC).

RA is in charge of the Vascular Surgery Residency Program at Hospital Nossa Senhora da Conceição (HNSC) and holds a MSc degree in surgery from the School of Medicine of Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (FAMED-UFRGS).

Author’s contributions

Conception and design: ALA, RMA, RA

Analysis and interpretation: ALA, RA

Data collection: ALA, RMA, MSV

Writing the article: ALA, RA

Critical revision of the article: RMA, MSV, RNR, RA

Final approval of the article*: ALA, RMA, MSV, RNR, RA

Statistical analysis: N/A

Overall responsibility: ALA

Obtained funding: None.

Financial support: None.

Conflicts of interest: No conflicts of interest declared concerning the publication of this article.

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