Saphenous vein graft failure after coronary artery bypass surgery: Pathophysiology, management, and future directions

Ralf E. Harskamp, Renato D. Lopes, Clinton E. Baisden, Robbert J. De Winter, John H. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To review our current understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of vein graft failure (VGF), give an overview of current preventive and interventional measures, and explore strategies that may improve vein graft patency. BACKGROUND: VGF and progression of native coronary artery disease limit the long-term efficacy of coronary artery bypass graft surgery. METHODS: We reviewed the published literature on the pathophysiology, prevention, and/or treatment of VGF by searching the MEDLINE (January 1, 1966-January 1, 2012), EMBASE (January 1, 1980-January 1, 2012), and Cochrane (January 1, 1995-January 1, 2012) databases. In addition, we reviewed references from the selected articles for studies not identified in the initial search. Basic science and clinical studies were included; non-English language publications were excluded. RESULTS: Acute thrombosis, neointimal hyperplasia, and accelerated atherosclerosis are the 3 mechanisms that lead to VGF. Preventive measures include matching and quality assessment of conduit and target vessel, lipid-lowering drugs, antithrombotic therapy, and cessation of smoking. Treatment of VGF includes medical therapy, percutaneous intervention, and redo coronary artery bypass graft surgery. In patients undergoing graft intervention, the use of drug-eluting stents, antiplatelet agents, and embolic protection devices may improve clinical outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Despite advances in management, VGF remains one of the leading causes of poor in-hospital and long-term outcomes after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. New developments in VGF prevention such as gene therapy, external graft support, fully tissue-engineered grafts, hybrid grafts, and synthetic conduits are promising but unproven. Future efforts to reduce VGF require a multidisciplinary approach with a primary focus on prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)824-833
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • coronary artery bypass grafting
  • future directions
  • management
  • outcomes
  • vein graft failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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