Am I a Candidate for Endoscopic Vein and Radial Artery Harvesting?

It’s the leading cause of death in the United States, and you might not even know you have it until it causes severe damage. We’re talking about coronary heart disease (CAD), the condition that occurs when plaque builds up inside the larger arteries that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

If you end up with too much plaque, a waxy substance made up of excess cholesterol, fatty acids, and other substances, your arteries become so narrow, they either partially or completely block the flow of blood. One of the most effective ways to treat CAD is to circumvent your blocked arteries with healthy vessels from other areas of your body.

And that’s where we come in. Our team at Louisiana Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute in Alexandria, Louisiana, specializes in vein services, including a minimally invasive procedure called endoscopic vein and radial artery harvesting.

As a board-certified cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon who’s cared for the United States and international dignitaries, I have years of experience diagnosing and treating serious heart conditions. If you have CAD, you may be a perfect candidate for our endoscopic vein or arterial artery harvesting procedure. Here’s what you need to know.

Who needs endoscopic vein or radial arterial harvesting?

There are few reasons you may need a vein graft from your leg or arm. Harvested vessels are often used in procedures such as peripheral vascular bypass, cerebral bypass, and arteriovenous grafts for dialysis fistulas.

But the most common reason is coronary artery disease. If you have CAD and your heart is struggling to get enough oxygen and nutrients, you may be noticing symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Arm or shoulder pain
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath

These are signs that your blocked arteries are weakening your heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure and heart attacks.

The best treatment for this is often coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. In this procedure, pieces of veins or arteries from elsewhere in your body are harvested and used to bypass your blocked coronary arteries.

Which vessels are used in a coronary bypass graft surgery?

Although there are several good candidates throughout your body, including the gastroepiploic artery in your stomach and the inferior epigastric artery in your abdominal wall, the most commonly used vessels are:

  • Internal thoracic arteries in your chest
  • A radial artery from your arm
  • A saphenous vein from your leg

The vessel that’s best for your CABG procedure depends on the size of your coronary arteries, where the blockage is and how severe it is, your age and other health conditions, and the health of your veins and arteries.

Internal thoracic arteries are a good choice because they are located in your chest and are easily accessible during your surgery. Because they have their own blood supply, they can remain intact at the point of origin, and the other end connects to your coronary artery just below the blockage.

If your internal thoracic arteries are not an option, you may need the help of your radial artery or saphenous vein, which requires a separate harvesting procedure.

How we harvest veins and arteries

Traditionally, harvesting veins from other places in your body required an open surgery technique that involved a long incision to access and remove the vein. Of course, that also meant a higher risk for infection and a longer hospital stay and recovery time.

I use a much less invasive technique called endoscopic harvesting. Whether you need your saphenous vein from your leg or your radial artery from your arm, I make only a tiny incision either in your wrist or in your groin to remove the vein.

Afterward, I close the incision and you’re ready for your CABG surgery. Endoscopic vein and artery harvesting have become the preferred method for vessel harvesting over the last decade, and I’m happy to provide my patients with this minimally invasive option that reduces risks and improves their overall surgical experience.

If you’ve been told you need a healthy vein or artery to repair a damaged one or treat a condition elsewhere, I invite you to come see me and discuss endoscopic vein and radial artery harvesting. To schedule a consultation, call Louisiana Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute at 318-383-3160 or request an appointment online.