Late failure of reversed vein bypass grafts is preceded by the appearance of stenotic lesions, which progress to total occlusion. These lesions appear either as intrinsic graft lesions or as new arteriosclerotic lesions in contiguous arteries. The present study summarizes the University of Pennsylvania experience with these lesions in 521 vein grafts inserted from 1979 to 1985. The grafts were grouped according to the site of the distal anastomosis; 231 above-knee popliteal (FP AK), 171 below-knee popliteal (FP BK), and 119 tibial (FT). The overall incidence of stenotic lesions was essentially identical with the three grafts (21%), but the relative incidence of intrinsic graft to arterial lesions was higher with the more distal grafts. The most common graft lesions developed adjacent to the proximal anastomosis, which is the narrowest part of a reversed vein graft. The popliteal artery was the most common site of outflow stenosis. There was negligible incidence of tibial lesions. The most common inflow arterial lesion was located in the common femoral and iliac arteries. The superficial femoral artery (SFA) was a rare site of inflow stenosis, even though it was at risk because 96 grafts originated from the SFA or popliteal artery. Sixty-seven per cent of the graft and 52% of the arterial lesions were treated successfully by percutaneous transluminal angioplasty; the rest had minor surgical revisions. This resulted in a 19%, 10%, and 9% improvement in 5-year patency for the FT, FP, BK, and FP AK bypasses. These results justify an aggressive policy of graft surveillance to identify and treat stenotic graft lesions before graft occlusion.
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