Aortocoronary Saphenous Vein Graft Disease: Pathogenesis, Predisposition, and Prevention

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Aortocoronary saphenous vein graft disease, with its increasing clinical sequelae, presents an important and unresolved dilemma in cardiological practice. During the 1st month after bypass surgery, vein graft attrition results from thrombotic occlusion, while later the dominant process is atherosclerotic obstruction occurring on a foundation of neointimal hyperplasia. Although the risk factors predisposing to vein graft atherosclerosis are broadly similar to those recognized for native coronary disease, the pathogenic effects of these risk factors are amplified by inherent deficiencies of the vein as a conduit when transposed into the coronary arterial circulation. A multifaceted strategy aimed at prevention of vein graft disease is emerging, elements of which include: continued improvements in surgical technique; more effective antiplatelet drugs; increasingly intensive risk factor modification, in particular early and aggressive lipid-lowering drug therapy; and a number of evolving therapies, such as gene transfer and nitric oxide donor administration, which target vein graft disease at an early and fundamental level. At present, a key measure is to circumvent the problem of vein graft disease by preferential selection of arterial conduits, in particular the internal mammary arteries, for coronary bypass surgery whenever possible. (Circulation. 1998;97:916-931.)

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