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What is Endoscopic Vein Harvesting?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Endoscopic vein harvesting (EVH) is a surgical procedure used to harvest veins for use in coronary artery bypass surgery. The harvested vein from the patient is used to create a graft which will bypass a blockage in the coronary artery and improve heart function. This procedure is performed by a surgeon who specializes in surgery on the heart and veins and it is done under general anesthesia in an operating room with a support staff including an anesthesiologist and nurses.

Historically, veins for these procedures were harvested by making long incisions in order to access the vein and lift it out. This was most commonly done in the leg although sometimes veins in the chest would be used. The patient faced the risk of serious complications as a result of the invasive procedure, and was also prevented from walking and engaging in a number of other activities while the injury healed. The procedure could be very traumatic as a result of having two surgical sites.

With endoscopic vein harvesting, the surgeon makes several small incisions. These are used to introduce surgical tools and an endoscope, a camera which allows the surgeon to see what he or she is doing. The vein is carefully removed with the tools and then can be used in a graft which, if it takes, will improve the heart's function. Eventually, other veins will take over for the vein which has been removed.

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For patients, there are a number of advantages to endoscopic vein harvesting. Like other minimally invasive surgeries, this surgery is accompanied with far fewer complications than those associated with open surgeries. The patient is able to get active again much more quickly, which can help the patient recover more rapidly, and the patient also benefits from reduced infection risks and less pain. In addition, the scarring is much less severe. Within a few years, the small scars left behind can even fade away entirely.

If a patient is a candidate for endoscopic vein harvesting, the surgeon will use the endoscopic vein harvesting method if at all possible. Sometimes there are complications which force the surgeon to switch to an open method. The more experience the surgeon has, the less likely this is. Patients who require vein harvesting procedures may want to consider going to a facility which specializes in this type of treatment so that they can access the best possible surgical care.

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