ObjectivesThis study sought to determine the effects of grafting the internal thoracic artery (ITA) to the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) on long-term (10-year) survival, the cardiac death-free rate, and on the cardiac event-free rate in Japanese patients.BackgroundThe use of ITA grafts has been reported to enhance postoperative survival and to decrease the occurrence of cardiac events in the Western literature. However, the survival benefits in Japanese patients, who may have different prognoses with coronary artery disease and a different fate of a saphenous vein graft, have not yet been determined.Subjects and MethodsA total of 954 consecutive patients who underwent coronary artery bypass graft operations (CABG) during the last 12 years at the Nara Medical University were followed and evaluated. Of these, 713 patients underwent ITA-CABG to at least the LAD (ITA group), and 241 patients received a saphenous vein graft (SVG) to the LAD (SVG group). At the time of operation, no significant difference was found between these two groups in age, sex ratio, left ventricular ejection fraction, left ventricular end-diastolic pressure, cardiac index, incidence of unstable angina, or in the necessity for an emergency operation. However, those patients who received ITA-CABG had significantly higher incidences of diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and left main coronary artery disease.ResultsThe 10-year cumulative graft patency rate for the LAD was 23% higher in the ITA group (90.3%) compared to the SVG group (67.0%), (p<.0001). Despite increased preoperative risk factors, patients in the ITA group showed significant improvements in their 5- and 10-year cumulative survival rates as well as in their cardiac death-free and event-free rates. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that ITA grafts improved the prognoses of patients with diabetes mellitus or left ventricular dysfunction and lowered both the long-term postoperative cardiac-death rate and the cardiac-event rate.ConclusionsThe use of ITA grafts was effective in improving both the postoperative survival and cardiac event-free rates, and should be recommended in patients with diabetes mellitus or left ventricular dysfunction. ITA grafting to the LAD should be a routine operation in almost all categories of such patients.