The iliac arteries are a group of arteries near the ilium or topmost part of the pelvis. They include the common iliac artery, the external iliac artery and the internal iliac artery. All of them are paired structures, so they are on both the left and right sides of the body.
Where are They?
The common iliac arteries begin at the base of the abdominal aorta. They form a fork with a single artery heading towards each leg. The common iliac artery then forks into the external iliac artery and internal iliac artery.
What Do They Do?
Arteries in general carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. In addition to sending blood down the external and internal iliac arteries, the common iliac arteries send blood to smaller branches that supply tissues and muscles near the ureter.
The external iliac artery transports blood down to the legs. It becomes the femoral artery after passing underneath the inguinal ligament in the lowest part of the abdomen.
The internal iliac artery, which is shorter than the external iliac artery, has multiple branches. It, therefore, sends blood to several different parts of the body, including the buttocks and genitalia.
What is Occlusive Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Occlusive peripheral arterial disease is a narrowing or blockage of an artery. It most commonly involves arteries of the legs, including the iliac arteries and the femoral arteries. It can also affect arteries of the arms or shoulder, but this is far less common.
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of an artery becoming progressively narrower. In this condition, plaque and cholesterol accumulate on the artery’s inner walls. Calcium can also build up on the inner walls and make them stiff as well as narrow.
In some, less common cases, a growth like a tumor or cyst develops within the artery. In a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia, the artery’s walls become abnormally thick. The symptoms vary depending on the location. If the iliac arteries are involved, the patient may develop cramps, pains or feelings of fatigue in their leg muscles.
A sudden blockage of an iliac artery is caused by a blood clot, and that can have multiple causes. Symptoms associated with a sudden blockage include severe pain, numbness or coldness. The leg may also be cyanotic or pale. The complete absence of blood flow can cause paralysis and a lack of feeling. If the blood flow is not restored, tissues can start to die.
What is an Iliac Aneurysm?
In an iliac aneurysm, the wall of an iliac artery weakens and bulges. If it bursts, it can cause uncontrolled and potentially deadly internal bleeding. Iliac aneurysms can be caused by atherosclerosis, surgery on the hips or lower back, and infections. The chief symptom is pain concentrated around the groin, back or lower abdomen.
Iliac aneurysms are most common in men who are over 60 years old. Certain genetic disorders can increase the risk of developing an iliac aneurysm. People who smoke or have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol are also more likely to develop iliac aneurysms.
At Peripheral Vascular Associates, we can assess your unique condition and come up with a personalized treatment plan for you. For your convenience, we have offices in San Antonio, Boerne, Corpus Christi, Del Rio, Floresville, Hondo, Jourdanton, New Braunfels and Uvalde. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more.