In a coronary bypass, surgeons take a vein from the leg or from elsewhere in the chest and graft it onto the heart, bypassing a clogged coronary artery. But if that graft clogs up, you're back where you started. Researchers at the University of Toronto compared leg veins with an artery taken from the arm.
What the researchers wanted to know: Is a graft made from the radial artery, a major blood vessel in the arm, more likely to stay clear than one from the saphenous vein (a leg vein)?
What they did: Five hundred and sixty-one patients who needed bypass surgery got both a radial artery graft and a saphenous vein graft, which were randomly assigned to different locations on the heart. Eight to 12 months after surgery, 440 patients had follow-up angiography so that researchers could see how clear the grafts were.
What they found: Only 8.2 percent of radial artery grafts became completely blocked, compared with 13.6 percent of saphenous vein grafts.
What the study means to you: The radial artery might be a workable alternative to the saphenous vein for coronary bypass grafts.
Caveats: The radial artery isn't always in good enough condition to be used as a graft. Also, because it's a muscular artery, it is more likely than a vein to spasm when it's attached.
Find out more: Read about coronary bypass surgery on the Mayo Clinic's website.
Read the article: Desai, N.D., et al. "A Randomized Comparison of Radial-Artery and Saphenous-Vein Coronary Bypass Grafts." New England Journal of Medicine. Nov. 25, 2004, Vol. 351, No. 22, pp. 23022309.
Abstract online: http://content.nejm.org