Understanding Vessel Harvesting

The goal of coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is to increase blood flow in a blocked coronary artery.

To do this, healthy arteries or veins are harvested (removed from another part of the body) to create a graft that channels blood flow around the section of the coronary artery that has become blocked. This increases blood flow to the heart tissue by bypassing the sections that have become narrow or blocked.

These vessels can come from several locations in the body:

grafting vessel harvesting

  • A mammary artery (found in the chest)
  • A saphenous vein (found in the leg)
  • A radial artery (found in the forearm)

Traditional open vessel harvesting

Traditional vessel harvesting procedures require a long incision or a series of shorter incisions. For instance, in the case of the greater saphenous vein, an open incision would run down the length of the patient’s leg, from the groin to the ankle. The harvested vessel is then used as a graft that surgeons sew onto the heart to bypass the blocked coronary artery.

Endoscopic vessel harvesting

Today, patients want smaller incisions and less pain. Technology has been developed which allows the saphenous vein and the radial artery to be removed with only a small incision. This is called  Endoscopic vessel harvesting, or EVH.

EVH usually requires only one small incision about 2cm long. It can be

used to harvest the saphenous vein from the leg or the radial artery in the forearm.

EVH uses special instruments to view and remove a blood vessel with much less trauma to surrounding tissues in the leg or arm.

vessel harvesting legs type

A Faster Recovery from Bypass Surgery

Regardless of how the harvest procedure is performed, the remaining blood vessels in the leg or arm remain intact. EVH not only causes much less pain and scarring, but means that patients can recover more quickly, return to normal mobility, and begin their cardiac rehabilitation almost immediately after surgery.