The natural history of intermediate and critical vein graft stenosis: Recommendations for continued surveillance or repair

Joseph L. Mills, Christopher L. Wixon, Donovan C. James, Jenifer Devine, Alex Westerband, John D. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Objective: Duplex ultrasound surveillance (DUS) after autogenous lower extremity bypass grafting is controversial. Specific criteria mandating graft revision are not uniform. It has been suggested that grafts harboring critical stenoses undergo revision, whereas those with intermediate stenoses undergo arteriography with selective repair. We sought to define the natural history and determine the risk of graft occlusion associated with unrepaired vein graft stenoses. Methods: We analyzed serial vascular laboratory and clinical data of 156 autogenous infrainguinal vein grafts in 142 patients. Grafts were categorized into three groups according to the first DUS-detected (index) lesion: (1) normal (peak systolic velocity. [PSV] < 200 cm/s, velocity, ratio [Vr] < 2); (2) intermediate stenosis (200 cm/s < PSV < 300 cm/s, 2 < Vr < 4); and (3) critical (PSV > 300 cm/s, Vr > 4). Our policy was to repair grafts with critical lesions and monitor all others. The risks of stenosis progression, graft revision, and graft thrombosis for each group were compared. Results: Serial DUS was normal in 100 (64%) grafts. The incidence of graft thrombosis in the normal group was 3% per year (mean follow-up, 27.5 months). Intermediate lesions developed in 32 grafts (20%) and were followed. Among these 32 grafts with intermediate stenoses, 63% progressed to critical and were revised, and 32% resolved or stabilized (mean follow-up, 26 months). Only one graft occlusion occurred in grafts with intermediate lesions subjected to serial DUS monitoring (incidence 1.5% per year, P = not significant). In the third group, 16 of 25 grafts with critical lesions were successfully revised and remain patent. In nine cases, critical lesions were not repaired, resulting in seven (78%) occlusions, all within 4 months of DUS detection. Conclusions: Serial surveillance is safe and effective for grafts with intermediate stenoses. The graft occlusion rate for such grafts with careful monitoring is no different from grafts without stenosis, and therefore, arteriography is not indicated in the absence of progression to critical stenosis. The short-term risk of graft occlusion in the presence of an unrevised critical stenosis is nearly 80%. These data have important clinical implications concerning the natural history of vein graft lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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