The goal of bypass surgery is to increase coronary artery blood flow. Healthy arteries or veins are "harvested" to create "bypass grafts" that channel the needed blood flow around the blocked portions of the coronary arteries. The arteries or veins are connected from the aorta to the surface of the heart beyond the blockages forming a graft. This allows the blood to flow through them and “bypass” the narrowed or closed points.
The new section of artery can come from the mammary artery in your chest, the radial artery in your forearm, or the saphenous vein in your leg. Your surgeon may choose to take a mammary artery. Every person has two mammary arteries. They take blood from just above your heart, to your torso. Since other arteries do the same job, the lower part of one of your mammary arteries can be removed, and attached to your heart. Doctors like to use the mammary artery because it’s a sturdy blood vessel. The surgeon may also choose to use the radial artery in your forearm.
The saphenous vein runs along the inside of your leg from the groin to the ankle. This vein has a thick wall and is well suited for use on your heart.
To remove this vein many surgeons use a technique called Endoscopic Vessel Harvesting. It is a new technique that does not require such a long incision. Using special instruments, the surgeon makes several small incisions and delicately removes the vein and closes the incision. Removing the saphenous vein by this method not only reduces patient discomfort1 and scarring, but recovery is much quicker.
Learn more about differences between traditional and Endoscopic Vessel Harvesting (EVH).