Mechanical, structural, and physiologic differences between above and below-knee human arteries

Pauline Struczewska, Sayed Ahmadreza Razian, Kaylee Townsend, Majid Jadidi, Ramin Shahbad, Elham Zamani, Jennifer Gamache, Jason MacTaggart, Alexey Kamenskiy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) affects the lower extremities and frequently results in poor clinical outcomes, especially in the vessels below the knee. Understanding the biomechanical and structural characteristics of these arteries is important for improving treatment efficacy, but mechanical and structural data on tibial vessels remain limited. We compared the superficial femoral (SFA) and popliteal (PA) arteries that comprise the above-knee femoropopliteal (FPA) segment to the infrapopliteal (IPA) anterior tibial (AT), posterior tibial (PT), and fibular (FA) arteries from the same 15 human subjects (average age 52, range 42–67 years, 87 % male). Vessels were imaged using μCT, evaluated with biaxial mechanical testing and constitutive modeling, and assessed for elastin, collagen, smooth muscle cells (SMCs), and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). IPAs were more often diseased or calcified compared to the FPAs. They were also twice smaller, 53 % thinner, and significantly stiffer than the FPA longitudinally, but not circumferentially. IPAs experienced 48 % higher physiologic longitudinal stresses (62 kPa) but 27 % lower circumferential stresses (24 kPa) and similar cardiac cycle stretch of <1.02 compared to the FPA. IPAs had lower longitudinal pre-stretch (1.12) than the FPAs (1.29), but there were no differences in the stored elastic energy during pulsation. The physiologic circumferential stiffness was similar in the above and below-knee arteries (718 kPa vs 754 kPa). Structurally, IPAs had less elastin, collagen, and GAGs than the FPA, but maintained similar SMC content. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of segment-specific human lower extremity artery biomechanics and may inform the development of better medical devices for PAD treatment. Statement of significance: Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) in the lower extremity arteries exhibits distinct characteristics and results in different clinical outcomes when treating arteries above and below the knee. However, their mechanical, structural, and physiologic differences are poorly understood. Our study compared above- and below-knee arteries from the same middle-aged human subjects and demonstrated distinct differences in size, structure, and mechanical properties, leading to variations in their physiological behavior. These insights could pave the way for creating location-specific medical devices and treatments for PAD, offering a more effective approach to its management. Our findings provide new, important perspectives for clinicians, researchers, and medical device developers interested in treating PAD in both above- and below-knee locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-299
Number of pages22
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Mar 15 2024


  • Femoropopliteal artery
  • Infrapopliteal arteries
  • Mechanical properties
  • Structural characteristics
  • Tibial arteries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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