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Can You Die From Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome & Is It A Disability?

  • PAES primarily affects young adults with a history of over-exercise (particularly runner or athletes)(1)
  • It can affect elderly and children (congenital) as well(2)
  • Arterial compression results from mechanical stress caused by the surrounding muscles and tendons
  • It is not a life-threatening condition
  • In worst cases, it may cause limb loss (though extremely rare)(3)
  • It will not cause any disability if detected early and proper treatment measures are taken(4)

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome or PAES is produced by abnormalities in the calf muscles, generally due to the gastrocnemius muscle. It may be congenital (developed from birth) or can happen in the later course of life by over exercise of the calf muscles.(1)

Can You Die From Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome?

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is not life-threatening. But you cannot underrate or ignore the disease. If not detected on time and proper treatment is made immediately after diagnosis, this condition can aggravate causing disability to one or both legs. It is an uncommon condition and often misdiagnosed. In rare cases, the condition may become severe due to delays in treatment resulting in the loss of the affected limb. Delay in treatment causes irreversible damage to your affected arteries.

So take every care to understand the symptoms and consult your doctor accordingly.(2,3)

Is Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome A Disability?

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome can be cured completely if detected at the right time i.e. in the early stages. It will not cause any disability if you start treating it as soon as possible. Serious conditions arising from treatment delay may cause disability to some individuals. The critical factor of proper diagnosis of young individuals with symptoms of claudication should not be underestimated, because Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome diagnosis is frequently overlooked in conventional imaging of vasculatures resulting in irreversible damage to the arteries.(5)

Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Risk Factors

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is not a common disorder. The conditions that may increase the chance of acquiring PAES are:

  • Young age as PAES is usually seen among individuals less than 30 years old. It predominantly affects young athletes in their 20s or late teens. In extremely rare cases, PAES affects individuals over the age of 40 years.
  • Men are more prone to Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, although females can also have it.
  • Too much exercise and prolonged strenuous activities, particularly athletes, cyclists, and runners are affected by PAES. Individuals trying to gain muscle faster by vigorous training and weight lifting exercises often get PAES.(2)

Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Complications

Your popliteal artery can get narrowed by long-term pressure on it (known as stenosis). This may lead to cramps and pain with simple activities like walking. When the condition becomes more severe (happens due to late diagnosis), irreversible damage to the lower leg muscles and nerves. Thrombosis of the deep vein (formation of blood clots) may result. Blood clots are more common in older Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome patients.(2)

How Is Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Diagnosed?

The doctors will evaluate the symptoms and at the same time carefully assess your health history. Diagnosis of Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is difficult as most of the patients are healthy and young resulting in normal findings during physical examination. Other potential causes that may cause the similar conditions are ruled out by your doctor in the diagnosis of PAES. These include clogged arteries, stress fractures, muscle strains, symptoms from chronic exertion, etc.(4)

Most Common Symptoms Of Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome

Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome has the common symptoms of cramping and pain in the posterior region of your lower leg. The pain usually takes place while exercising along with other symptoms such as:

  • Feet getting cold following exercise
  • Experiencing burning or tingling sensation in the calf region
  • The calf region getting numb.(5)

Treatment For Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome

This condition can be corrected only through surgery. During surgery, the trapped arteries are freed from the abnormal growth of calf muscles. Surgery is proposed when the condition becomes significantly serious causing severe symptoms and affecting the daily activities of the patient.

An incision is made in the surgical process on your inner calf area just below your knee. Sometimes the incision may be made on the back of your knee. This allows more room to the artery by releasing the irregular calf muscle. Such surgical intervention usually also prevents the future of the occurrence of Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. Typically, general anesthesia is used during the surgery and one day of hospital stay is required.

Patients who are suffering from this syndrome for long might require bypass surgery of the artery. It is usually carried out on patients suffering from the severe narrowness of the popliteal artery (often known as stenosis). Your leg function is usually retained when PAES is detected at the initial stage and prompt treatment is initiated.(4, 5)


  1. Gaunder C, McKinney B, Rivera J. Popliteal artery entrapment or chronic exertional compartment syndrome? Case reports in medicine. 2017;2017.
  2. di Marzo L, Rich NM. Popliteal Artery Entrapment 24. Vascular Surgery: Cases, Questions and Commentaries. 2018:275.
  3. Grimm N, Danilkowicz R, Shortell C, Toth A. Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome. JBJS reviews. 2020;8(1):e0035.
  4. Hameed M, Coupland A, Davies AH. Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome: an approach to diagnosis and management. British journal of sports medicine. 2018;52(16):1073-1074.
  5. Lamb C, Davies C, Whitbread T. Two cases of mis-diagnosed popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. EJVES extra. 2010;20(2):e16-e18.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 20, 2020

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