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Incidence of Residual Clot Strands in Saphenous Vein Grafts After Endoscopic Harvest

Burris, Nicholas; Schwartz, Kimberly; Brown, Jamie; Kwon, Michael; Pierson, Richard III; Griffith, Bartley; Poston, Robert

Innovations:Technology and Techniques in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery: January 2006 - Volume 1 - Issue 6 - p 323-327
doi: 10.1097/IMI.0b013e31802f4399
Original Articles

Objective: Strands of clot are frequently flushed out of saphenous vein grafts (SVG) during preparation for grafting, particularly those that are endoscopically harvested. However, saline distention at uncontrolled pressures increases graft thrombogenicity and the risk of early failure after coronary artery bypass grafting. The purpose of this prospective investigation was to define the incidence of intraluminal clot within endoscopically harvested SVG and the effect of attempted removal by saline distention.

Methods: Endoscopically harvested SVG were intraoperatively prepared for grafting by using saline distention at uncontrolled pressure (n = 24) or without distension (n = 20). Optical coherence tomography, a catheter-based infrared imaging system, was used to identify and characterize intraluminal clot strands in surplus SVG segments (average length for analysis, 4.9 ± 2.6 cm). These segments were also assessed for luminal tissue factor activity and percent endothelial integrity by CD31-directed immunohistochemistry.

Results: Clot strands were observed in 45.4% (20 of 44) of imaged SVG segments (severity of observed clots: 54%, mild; 32%, moderate; 14%, severe). Compared with grafts distended with saline, vein segments that were not distended displayed significantly higher endothelial integrity (60.1% ± 27.2% versus 24.7% ± 24.1%, P < 0.05) and lower tissue factor activity (1.28 ± 0.95 versus12.3 ± 5.5 U/cm2, P < 0.001) despite having a higher incidence of clot stands (65.0% versus 29.1%, P < 0.02, Fisher exact test). Static flow was observed in veins during endoscopic harvest.

Conclusions: Clot strands of varying severity are a common finding after endoscopic vein harvest. Saline distention is not completely effective in removing clot strands and increases overall graft thrombogenicity. Therefore, prevention of clot or less traumatic methods of removing clot are indicated.

From the Division of Cardiac Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Robert Poston reports a conflict of interest in the form of grant support from Guidant Corp. (now Boston Scientific). No other authors report a conflict of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Robert Poston, MD, Division of Cardiac Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, N4W94 22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail:

Presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, San Francisco, CA, June 2006.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.