Unsuspected preexisting saphenous vein disease: an unrecognized cause of vein bypass failure

Thomas F. Panetta, Michael L. Marin, Frank J. Veith, Jamie Goldsmith, Ronald E. Gordon, Anne M. Jones, Michael L. Schwartz, Sushil K. Gupta, Kurt R. Wengerter

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121 Scopus citations


Our prior anecdotal experience with unsuspected preexisting saphenous vein disease prompted us to study its incidence, its relation to graft failure, and to identify techniques for its detection. Thick-walled, postphlebitic sclerotic occluded, postphlebitic sclerotic recanalized, calcified, and varicose vein lesions were detected in 63 (12%) of 513 infrainguinal vein bypasses. In 13 (2% to 5%) cases, severe saphenous vein disease precluded use of the vein. In the remaining 50 cases, the entire vein or a portion thereof, with minimal or unsuspected disease, was used for bypass. Early graft failures occurred in 10 (20%) of the 50 cases. The cumulative primary patency rate at 30 months for bypasses performed with diseased veins was 32%. This was significantly less than the 73% cumulative primary patency rate for bypasses with veins without detectable disease (p ≤ 0.001). Retrospective evaluation of preoperative duplex ultrasonography (n = 21) originally used to evaluate saphenous vein length and diameter correctly identified thick-walled, occluded, calcified, and varicose veins in 62% of cases. Intraoperative methods of vein evaluation included inspection, palpation, irrigation, catheter or valvulotome insertion to identify obstruction, and intraoperative arteriography. Histologic examination of diseased veins demonstrated a spectrum of disease with thickening of the intima and media, vein wall calcification, and luminal recanalization. We conclude that (1) unsuspected preexisting saphenous vein disease occurs in approximately 12% of cases and results in both early and late graft failures; (2) detection, in some cases, is possible with duplex ultrasonography and intraoperative techniques; and (3) diseased veins that are recanalized, calcified, or thick-walled should not be used if an alternative vein is available. (J Vasc Surg 1992;15:102–12.)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-112
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


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