Harvard Men's Health Watch

"Keyhole" vein removal for bypass is safe

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers reassurance that the leading method for harvesting veins for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is safe. The research involved more than 235,000 Medicare patients undergoing heart surgery at over 900 sites in the United States.

The study examined endoscopic vein harvesting, in which flexible lighted instruments are inserted through small incisions to remove a length of vein from the legs. In CABG, the vein is used to route blood around blocked coronary arteries. It causes less pain and heals faster than conventional open surgery to harvest veins.

People in the study were checked for three years during follow up. Their risk of death, heart attack, or other bad outcomes was similar after both endoscopic "keyhole" surgery and open surgery. But people having endoscopic harvesting had fewer complications from their surgical incisions.

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