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In CABG, Radial Artery Works Best for Second Key Graft

With more than 15 years of follow-up from two related trials, the best conduit for the second most important target vessel in coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) appears to be resolved.

The radial artery (RA) graft is linked with a lower risk of major adverse cardiac events (MACE) relative to a saphenous vein (SV) or the free right internal thoracic artery (FRITA).

On the basis of these findings, “a radial artery graft should be considered in all isolated CABG operations unless there are contraindications,” reported David L. Hare, MBBS, director of research in the department of cardiology, University of Melbourne.

For the primary graft, there is general agreement that the left internal thoracic artery (LITA) is the first choice for the left anterior descending vessel, but the optimal graft for the second most important target has never been established, according to Dr. Hare.

For the primary graft, there is general agreement that the left internal thoracic artery (LITA) is the first choice for the left anterior descending vessel, but the optimal graft for the second most important target has never been established, according to Dr. Hare.

Almost 25 years ago, two randomized controlled trials called RAPCO-RITA and RAPCO-SV were initiated to address the question. There is now 15 years of follow-up for both of the RAPCO (Radial Artery Patency and Clinical Outcomes) trials, which were presented together at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.

Two Trials Conducted Simultaneously

The RAPCO-RITA trial randomized CABG patients less than 70 years of age (less than 60 years in those with diabetes) to grafting of the second target vessel with an RA or FRITA graft. The RAPCO-SV trial randomized those 70 years or older (60 years or older with diabetes) to an RA or SV graft.

The two primary endpoints were graft patency at 10 years and a composite MACE at 10 years. The assessment of the MACE endpoint, which consisted of cardiovascular mortality, acute myocardial infarction, and coronary revascularization, was later amended to include a comparison at 15 years.

Ten-year patency results, favoring the RA in both studies, were previously published in Circulation. In the new data presented at the meeting, the RA was associated with a significant reduction in MACE relative to the comparator graft in both studies.

“The main driver was a reduction in all-cause mortality,” Dr. Hare reported.

In RAPCO-RITA, 394 patients were randomized with follow-up data available for all but 1 patient at 15 years. Similarly, only 1 patient was lost to follow-up among the 225 randomized in RAPCO-SV. In both studies, baseline characteristics were well balanced.

MACE Curves Separate at 5 Years

In RAPCO-RITA, the MACE survival curves began to separate at about 5 years and then gradually widened. By 15 years, the lower rate of MACE in the RA group (38% vs. 48%) translated into a 26% relative reduction (hazard ratio, 0.74; P = .04).

In RAPCO-SV, the pattern was similar, by 15 years, the rates of MACE were 60% and 73% for the RA and SV groups, respectively, translating into a 29% relative reduction (HR, 0.71; P = .04).

There was no heterogeneity in benefit across prespecified subgroups such as presence or absence of diabetes, gender, or age. In RAPCO-RITA, there was 8% absolute and 31% relative reduction in all-cause mortality. In RAPCO-SV, the absolute and relative reductions were 11% and 26%.

When the trial was initiated, Dr. Hare hypothesized that RITA would prove more durable than RA, so the outcome was not anticipated.

“This is the first randomized controlled trial program to address the question,” said Dr. Hare, who noted that there have been numerous retrospective and case control analyses that have produced mixed results in the past.

Discussant Praises Trial Quality

The AHA-invited discussant, Marc Ruel, MD, chair of cardiac surgery, University of Ottawa (Ont.) Heart Institute, called these data “important,” and he congratulated Dr. Hare for conducting the first randomized trial to address the question about second graft durability.

However, he noted that, although the study was randomized, it was not blinded, and he questioned whether postoperative care, in particular, was similar. He also pointed out that the MACE rate seemed high, particularly among the older patients randomized in RAPCO-SV.

“All of the patients were referred to an independently run CABG rehab program that was quite separate from the trial but that provided identical mandated care,” Dr. Hare responded, indicating that there was no opportunity for differences in postprocedural management.

In the United States, the SV graft is often preferred on the basis of easy harvesting and handling characteristics, according to Dr. Hare, who estimated that fewer than 10% of the 200,000 CABG procedures performed in the United States employ the RA conduit for second target vessels. He believes the RAPCO trials data support a change.

“My personal view is [that, on the basis of] this data, given that it is from a controlled trial rather than from patient-level meta-analyses, all isolated CABG operations should be using a radial graft if it is suitable,” Dr. Hare said.

Dr. Hare reports financial relationships with Abbott, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer-Ingelheim, CSL-Biotherapies, Lundbeck, Menarini, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Regeneron, Sanofi, Servier, and Vifor. Dr. Ruel reports financial relationships with Cryolife, Edwards, and Medtronic.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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