Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome (PAES) | Treatment & Symptoms | MedStar Health

Condition that affects the legs of some athletes

The popliteal artery runs behind the knee. When it’s squeezed between the muscle and the tendons, blood flow to the lower portion of the leg decreases. Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome (PAES) can cause damage to the artery as well as leg pain and cramping.

Although rare, the condition most commonly develops as the calf muscles grow. It primarily affects those with larger leg muscles, such as young male athletes who play sports that involve running. Some people are born with the popliteal artery following an abnormal path down the leg, leading to PAES.

The team in our Vascular and Endovascular Program is a leader in innovative minimally invasive techniques to treat vascular conditions such as popliteal artery entrapment syndrome.

What are the symptoms of PAES?

Happy doctor and patient

Symptoms of PAES are often present during physical activity and may be relieved within five minutes of resting. During exercise, symptoms will occur in the same leg and may include cramping, numbness or pain. Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome may resemble adventitial cystic disease, in which a cyst forms in an artery, narrowing or blocking blood flow.


Diagnosing popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures to measure blood flow through the lower leg.

Abdominal Duplex Ultrasound

Abdominal duplex ultrasound is a combination of a traditional and Doppler ultrasound that assesses the blood vessels in your abdomen for blockages or aneurysms.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Pulse Volume Recording

Pulse volume recording tests are used to evaluate blood flow through the arteries in your arms or legs.


Our heart and vascular teams work together and with other specialties to develop and implement individualized plans to treat a wide variety of conditions. This could include lifestyle modifications, medication or more advanced treatments.

Vascular Disease Treatments

Vascular disease treatments address conditions that affect the blood vessels, which can cause blood flow to become decreased, interrupted or slowed.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.