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Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, electrical impulses don't follow a normal pathway through the heart. As a result, the heart doesn't beat normally or pump blood properly.
Having atrial fibrillation can lead to more than an abnormal heart beat. Patients experiencing atrial fibrillation are at risk for:
University of Chicago Medicine heart surgeons have been successfully treating atrial fibrillation for decades, and we offer the most advanced techniques to correct this condition. Surgical ablation (also referred to as a modified Maze procedure or Mini Maze procedure) involves the use of radiofrequency waves (modified electrical energy) to create precise scar lines on the heart's surface. These scars redirect the erratic electrical impulses of atrial fibrillation to a normal electrical pathway through the heart. Our surgeons use specially designed instruments to deliver the radiofrequency waves to the abnormal heart tissue.
Surgical radiofrequency ablation can be performed in conjunction with other heart surgeries, such as mitral valve repair or coronary artery bypass for patients with co-existing heart conditions or can be a stand-alone procedure for patients with atrial fibrillation.
Surgical radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation offers the following benefits:
In some cases, the procedure will reduce the size of the atria, therefore lessening the risk for other complications, such as heart failure.
Additional benefits of minimally invasive surgical ablation include:
Radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation is an option if:
You may have heard about the Maze procedure, a surgical approach to treating atrial fibrillation that entails precise cutting of heart tissue to stop the abnormal heart rhythms. While this is an effective approach to treat atrial fibrillation, it does pose greater risks and complications than the radiofrequency approach.
In contrast to the Maze procedure, surgical radiofrequency ablation (modified Maze procedure) offers the following benefits:
Catheter ablation is similar to surgical ablation in the sense that both procedures are performed for the same purpose and they both use radiofrequency waves to treat abnormal heart rhythms. Catheter ablation involves the use of a catheter that is threaded through the leg and into the heart. The catheter is equipped with a device that delivers radiofrequency waves to the source of the arrhythmia. An electrophysiologist performs this procedure in a catheterization lab.
The surgical procedure is performed through small holes in the chest, usually with robotic assistance, and has the added benefit of ligating the left atrial appendage (the source of clots and embolic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation).
Occasionally, for patients with long-standing atrial fibrillation, the two procedures are combined (hybrid ablation). Our expert electrophysiologists team up with our highly experienced robotic heart surgeon to get the maximum benefit from the two approaches in treating the rhythm problem.
Becky Elliott was just 35 when she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation ("AFib"), an abnormal heart rhythm caused by erratic electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart. After limited success with different treatments, she received robotic surgery for the treatment of atrial fibrillation.Learn more about Becky's recovery