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Cardiac Surgery

Endoscopic Vessel Harvesting

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Coronary artery bypass surgery requires the removal of a healthy blood vessel from the leg, chest, or arm. This graft is used to create a pathway around the blocked part of the coronary artery, allowing blood to reach the heart. Blood flow in the body is generally not affected by removing these vessels.

The vessels commonly used as grafts are the internal mammary arteries along the inside of the chest wall, the radial arteries in the arms, and the saphenous veins in the legs. The saphenous vein is used most often. Traditionally, the vein is removed from the leg through a long incision that may stretch from ankle to groin. Often, patients experience more postoperative pain from the leg incision than from the chest incision. Rehabilitation may be delayed because the longer leg incision may make it more difficult for the patient to stand or walk after surgery.

Endoscopic vessel harvesting is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional vessel removal surgery. Using special instruments, the vein removal can be performed through one to three small, one-inch incisions. An endoscope is connected to a video camera and inserted through these small openings. The endoscope is used to view the saphenous vein and remove the vein with minimal stress to the leg. This procedure reduces the surgical trauma to the patient and decreases the incidence of wound healing complications.

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