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Vessel Harvesting

The goal of bypass surgery is to increase coronary artery blood flow. Healthy arteries or veins are “harvested” to create “bypass grafts” that channel vital blood flow around the blocked portions of the coronary arteries. The arteries or veins are connected from the aorta to the surface of the heart beyond the blockages forming a graft. This allows the blood to flow through them and bypass the narrowed or closed points. The new section of artery can come from the mammary artery in your chest, the radial artery in your forearm, or the saphenous vein in your leg.

Every person has two mammary arteries. Your surgeon may choose to use a mammary artery, which carries blood from just above the heart to the torso, to improve blood flow. Doctors prefer using the mammary artery because it tends to be sturdy. Since many arteries do the same job, the lower part of a mammary artery can be removed, and attached to the heart. Some surgeons may opt to use the radial artery in your forearm.

The saphenous vein runs along the inside of your leg from the groin to the ankle. This vein has a thick wall and is well suited for use on your heart. Surgeons remove this vein and replace it with a graft. To remove this vein many surgeons use a technique called Endoscopic Vessel Harvesting. It is a new technique that does not require such a long incision. Using special instruments, the surgeon makes several small incisions and carefully removes the vein and closes the incision. Removing the saphenous vein by this method not only reduces patient discomfort1 and scarring, but recovery is much quicker.2, 3

Clinical References

  1. Davis Z, et al. Endoscopic vein harvest for coronary artery bypass grafting: technique and outcomes. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Aug 1998; 116(2):228-35.
  2. Allen KB. et al. Endoscopic Versus Traditional Saphenous Vein Harvesting: A Prospective, Randomized Trial. Annals of Thoracic Surgery: 1998, 66: 26-32.
  3. Patel AN. et al. Prospective analysis of endoscopic vein harvesting. American Journal of Surgery: 2001 Dec; 182(6):716-9.

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