Background: The technique of harvesting the saphenous vein for coronary artery bypass grafting influences the fate of vein grafts. The patency rate of a novel "no-touch" technique in which the vein is harvested with a pedicle of surrounding tissue and not distended was compared with two other techniques.
Methods: One hundred fifty-six patients who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting were randomized to three saphenous vein harvesting groups: group C (conventional)--the vein was stripped, distended, and stored in saline; group I (intermediate)--the vein was stripped, local application of papaverine was used instead of distention, and the vessel was then stored in heparinized blood; and group NT (no-touch)--the vein was harvested with surrounding tissue, not distended, and stored in heparinized blood. Surgical and clinical factors that might influence graft occlusion were recorded. One hundred twenty-seven vein grafts in group C, 116 in group I, and 124 in group NT, as well as 118 left internal mammary artery grafts, were angiographically assessed at 18 months mean follow-up time.
Results: The vein graft patency was 88.9% in group C, 86.2% in group I, and 95.4% in group NT. There was a statistically significant difference between the patency of the single-vein grafts in NT and the other two groups (p = 0.025). The higher the flow, the better the patency irrespective of the technique used. A higher attrition rate was found in vein segments taken from the knee area in group I. Poor vein quality affected patency in all groups. Forty-seven of all 51 sequential grafts (92.2%) were patent. The patency of left internal mammary artery grafts was 108 of 118 (91.5%).
Conclusions: We conclude that preservation of the surrounding tissue of the saphenous vein using this no-touch technique abolishes venospasm intraoperatively and plays an important role in maintaining vein graft function and patency.