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Bilateral mammary artery vs. single mammary artery grafting: promising early results: but will the match finish with enough players?

Arie Pieter Kappetein
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq341 2444-2446 First published online: 18 September 2010

This editorial refers to ‘Randomized trial to compare bilateral vs. single internal mammary coronary artery bypass grafting: 1-year results of the Arterial Revascularisation Trial (ART)’, by D.P. Taggart et al., on page 2470

A single internal mammary artery (SIMA) rather than vein graft to the left anterior descending coronary artery is undoubtedly the standard therapy in coronary bypass surgery. Surprisingly, the usage of two mammary arteries has not been accepted as the standard of care and the benefits and disadvantages have been a matter of debate for years. Numerous compelling retrospective studies have documented a clear benefit for bilateral mammary artery (BIMA) grafting over SIMA grafting in reducing the long-term risk of death, cardiac death, and late cardiac events.1 Nevertheless, there is a wide discrepancy between these findings in the literature and clinical practice. In the USA, BIMA usage is only around 4%2 and in Europe 12%.3 The saphenous vein is still a widely used graft because of its accessibility, sufficient length, and ease of manipulation. Bilateral mammary artery grafting has been associated with an increased rate of sternal dehiscence a potential complication, particularly in diabetics.4 It seems however that using skeletonized BIMA grafts may lower the incidence of sternal complications.5 Another argument that is often used against BIMA usage is that composite grafting is susceptible to the effect of flow competition and may lead to a higher incidence of graft occlusion or string sign in up to 20% of the patients.6 Nonetheless, this compares favourably with an astonishing …