Should computed tomography angiography supersede invasive coronary angiography for the evaluation of graft patency following coronary artery bypass graft surgery?

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2015 Aug;21(2):231-9. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivv078. Epub 2015 Apr 29.


Invasive coronary angiography (ICA) has long been the established gold standard in assessing graft patency following coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). Over the past decade or so however, improvements in computed tomography angiography (CTA) technology have allowed its emergence as a useful clinical tool in graft assessment. The recent introduction of 64-slice and now 128-slice scanners into widespread distribution, and the development of 320-detector row technology allowing volumetric imaging of the entire heart at single points in time within one cardiac cycle, has increased the potential of CTA to supersede ICA in this capacity. This study sought to examine the evidence surrounding this potential. A best evidence topic was constructed according to a structured protocol. The enquiry: In [patients who have undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery] is [computed tomography angiography or invasive coronary angiography] superior in terms of [graft patency assessment, stenosis detection, radiation exposure and complication rate]? Four hundred and twenty-four articles were identified from the search strategy. Four additional articles were identified from references of key articles. Seventeen articles selected as best evidence were tabulated. The reliability of CTA as a tool in the detection of graft patency and stenosis has continued to improve with each successive generation of multislice technology. The latest 64- and 128-slice CTA techniques are able to detect graft patency and stenosis with very high sensitivities and specificities comparable with ICA, while remaining non-invasive procedures associated with fewer complications (ICA carries a 0.08% risk of myocardial infarction and 0.7% risk of minor complications in clinically stable patients). Present limitations of the technology include the accurate visualization of distal anastomoses and clip artefacts. In addition, the capacity of diagnostic ICA to be combined simultaneously with percutaneous coronary interventions is an important advantage and a further limitation of CTA alone. Recent developments, however, including the derivation of fractional flow reserve and perfusion assessment from CTA as functional measures of stenosis severity have given CTA at present the capacity to become a first-line tool in the assessment of patients with suspected graft dysfunction. Novel computer-automated diagnostic software, though currently in infancy, has shown promise in facilitating and speeding image interpretation. With further improvements in scanning technologies, CTA is likely to supersede ICA for graft assessment in the near future.

Keywords: Computed tomography angiography; Coronary artery bypass graft surgery; Graft patency; Graft surveillance; Invasive coronary angiography; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Angiography / methods*
  • Coronary Artery Bypass* / adverse effects
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / diagnostic imaging*
  • Graft Occlusion, Vascular / etiology
  • Humans
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Vascular Patency