The Benefits of Endoscopic Vein Harvesting
For patients with coronary artery disease and other heart conditions, open heart surgery may be necessary. One procedure is the coronary artery graft. During this procedure, the cardiologist creates a sort of “detour” around a blocked or damaged artery, so that blood can still flow to the muscles of the heart.
To create that alternate path, the doctor uses another vein from the body. Although sometimes the internal mammary artery from the chest is used, it is more common to use the saphenous vein in the leg. A new technique, called endoscopic vein harvesting, gives doctors a minimally invasive option for performing the first step in a coronary artery graft.
How Endoscopic Vein Harvesting Works
Before the cardiologist can perform the coronary artery graft, it’s necessary to get the “material” to graft on. In this case, the doctor needs a vein. To begin the procedure, the cardiologist makes one to three short incisions in the patient’s leg. This is different than traditional vein harvesting, which requires a much lengthier incision in the patient’s leg.
Next, the doctor inserts a camera, called an endoscope, into each incision. That endoscope gives a clear view of the vein and the surrounding tissue. Using the images from the endoscope, the doctor carefully removes the section of vein necessary for the graft. The saphenous vein runs from the groin to the ankle, offering plenty of material to work with.
Once the doctor has removed the necessary section of vein, the incisions are closed, and the graft can begin. Over time the body will compensate for the missing vein, so that the leg maintains proper circulation.
Advantages of Endoscopic Vein Harvesting
Unlike traditional vein harvesting, endoscopic vein harvesting is minimally invasive. It requires much smaller incisions. Although some patients’ medical history will make the traditional method necessary, most patients are candidates for the endoscopic approach. Especially for patients who have health conditions that impede healing, like peripheral artery disease (PAD) or diabetes, endoscopic vein harvesting is particularly appealing.
- Patients generally experience less pain at the incision site, since the incisions are smaller.
- There tend to be fewer complications and infections, resulting in lower incidence of hospital re-admission.
- Scarring is dramatically reduced. Patients often find that the scars are hardly noticeable after healing.
- Patients enjoy a shorter recovery time, and are often discharged from the hospital sooner.
If you have questions about endoscopic vein harvesting, coronary artery grafts, or other cardiovascular procedures, please contact us at Consult-a-Nurse® at 1-800-382-3522 for answers to your questions and free physician referrals.