BACKGROUND: The Arterial Revascularization Trial has been designed to answer the question whether the use of bilateral internal thoracic arteries can improve 10-year outcomes when compared with single internal thoracic arteries. In the Arterial Revascularization Trial, a significant proportion of patients initially allocated to bilateral internal thoracic arteries received other conduit strategies. We sought to investigate the incidence and clinical implication of bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion in the Arterial Revascularization Trial.
METHODS: Among patients enrolled in the Arterial Revascularization Trial (n = 3102), we excluded those allocated to single internal thoracic arteries (n = 1554), those who did not undergo surgery (n = 16), and those who underwent operation but withdrew after randomization (n = 7). Propensity score matching was used to compare converted versus nonconverted bilateral internal thoracic artery groups.
RESULTS: A total of 1525 patients were operated with the intention to receive bilateral internal thoracic artery grafting. Of those, 233 (15.3%) were converted to other conduit selection strategies. Incidence of conversion largely varied across 131 participating surgeons (from 0% to 100%). The most common reason for bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion was the evidence of at least 1 internal thoracic artery that was not suitable, which was reported in 77 cases. Patients with intraoperative bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion received a lower number of grafts (2.95 ± 0.84 vs 3.21 ± 0.74; P < .001). However, the hospital mortality rate was comparable to that of those who did not require bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion (0% vs 1.6%; P = .1), as well as the incidence of major complications. At 5 years, we found a nonsignificant excess of deaths (11.9% vs 8.4%; P = .1) and major adverse events (17.1% 13.2%; P = .1) mainly driven by an excess of revascularization in patients requiring conversion.
CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of intraoperative bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion is not infrequent. Bilateral internal thoracic artery graft conversion is not associated with increased operative morbidity, but its effect on late outcomes remains uncertain.