Autologous pericardium, briefly tanned in glutaraldehyde, is an excellent biomaterial when used in various cardiac procedures, including repair and replacement of heart valves. A generalized lack of calcification and an absence of inflammatory response in these combined experiences has led the authors to consider the use of treated autologous pericardium for the construction of substitute small caliber blood vessels. Rapid, intraoperative construction of a vascular graft from autologous pericardium, briefly treated in 0.62% glutaraldehyde, is accomplished through the use of two concentric, mating helical stents that support a rectangular pattern of tissue into a cylindrical, nonkinking, compliant conduit. A disposable automated assembly tool provides for precise assembly of the tissue and stents. The tools and methods for construction of vascular grafts from nonvascular tissue are known as the Rapidgraft™ (Ramus Medical Technologies, Santa Barbara, CA). The technique can be used with any suitable tissue. Accelerated fatigue test studies have confirmed that stent supported pericardial grafts are capable of withstanding physiologic pressures and flows beyond 7 equivalent years. Six autologous pericardial grafts measuring 5 mm in diameter by 5.5 cm in length showed 100% patency beyond 5 months in a growing calf carotid artery model. Pathological examination of explanted grafts confirm the presence of a continuous endothelial lined surface, infiltration of the tissue by fibrous connective tissue such that the individual layers of the pericardial vessel wall could not be identified, and there was no inflammatory response. Based on the encouraging results in animal studies, a small multicenter clinical trial has been initiated to evaluate the performance of the Rapidgraft as a replacement conduit for the radial artery in cases in which the radial artery has been harvested as a coronary artery bypass conduit. Results from the radial artery trial will be used as an indication to evaluate the Rapidgraft as a coronary artery substitute. We conclude that the material properties, including the biological origin of a vessel wall, may be significant determinants of graft patency, and that the Rapidgraft may be an answer to the need for small caliber arterial graft with the potential for long-term patency and durability.
Copyright © 1998 by the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs