The radial artery in coronary surgery, 2018

  • James TatoulisEmail author


It is now 25 years since the radial artery (RA) was reintroduced in coronary surgery. It has evolved into being a significant coronary artery bypass conduit and ranks third in usage after the internal thoracic artery (ITA) and saphenous vein grafts (SVG). Its advantages are that it can be readily and efficiently harvested, is of good length and appropriate size for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, is robust and easy to handle, and remains free of atheroma, and there is minimal wound morbidity. The RA must be used judiciously with attention to spasm prophylaxis because of its muscular wall, and by avoiding competitive flow. Its patency is equivalent to the ITAs when placed to similar coronary territories and under similar conditions (stenosis, size, quality) and RA patencies are always superior to those of SVG in both observational and randomized studies—88–90% versus 50–60% at 10 years, and 80–87% versus 25–40% at 20 years. Its use and excellent patencies result in survival results equivalent to bilateral internal thoracic artery (BITA) grafting and always superior to left internal thoracic artery (LITA) +SVG. Typical radial artery multiarterial bypass grafting (RA-MABG) 10-year survivals are 80–90% versus 70–80% for LITA-SVG. In general, for every 100 patients undergoing CABG, 10 more patients will be alive at 10 years post-operatively. The RA also is important in achieving total arterial revascularization, and several reports indicate a further survival advantage for patients having three arterial grafts over two. The RAs are especially useful in diabetic, morbidly obese patients, those with conduit shortage, and leg pathology, and in coronary reoperations. Although the RA has equivalent patencies to the right internal thoracic artery (RITA), it is much more versatile. RAs that have been instrumented by angiography or percutaneous coronary intervention should be avoided. The radial artery has proved to be an excellent arterial conduit, is equivalent to but more versatile than the RITA, and is always superior to SVG. Its use should be part of every coronary surgeon’s skill set.


Coronary artery bypass Radial artery Arterial grafting 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


No animal research was involved. All human patient information is de-identified. All procedures performed in the patients were routine therapeutic coronary artery bypass graft operations, and all the reviewed studies had been previously published in the literature. The original studies had institutional research committee approvals which ensure appropriate ethical standards. This article is a review of previously published studies in the literature, and does not relate to any new information not previously published.


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Copyright information

© Indian Association of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgeons 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Melbourne HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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