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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Surgery for Atrial Fibrillation

While medical management and catheter ablation are used to treat atrial fibrillation, some patients benefit from surgery.

Surgery for atrial fibrillation may be an option for patients with:

  • Atrial fibrillation despite medical management
  • Severe symptoms
  • Need for valve surgery or coronary bypass
  • Heart failure

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Surgical Options for Atrial Fibrillation

At Northwestern Memorial, we offer two highly effective surgical options for treating atrial fibrillation. Both create electrical blocks or barriers that redirect abnormal electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation, restoring the heart rhythm and normal blood flow.

  • The minimally invasive Hybrid Maze option is performed in two stages: scar lines are created via small incisions on a beating heart and then a sternotomy incision (a long incision along the flat bone in the middle of the chest); the heart-lung “bypass” machine are not required
  • Traditional atrial fibrillation procedures provide the opportunity to treat multiple cardiac conditions at once, and offer the highest chance for a cure using a single intervention

Hybrid Maze Procedure

The minimally invasive Hybrid Maze procedure incorporates catheter ablation and surgery, and may be ideal for patients whose only cardiac condition is atrial fibrillation. The Hybrid Maze procedure does not require a sternotomy or the use of a heart-lung “bypass” machine.

This approach is not an option if you:

  • Have a clot in your heart
  • Have had prior heart surgery
  • Require other heart surgery procedures

Traditional Atrial Fibrillation Procedures

Traditional atrial fibrillation surgery may be performed to treat patients whose only cardiac condition is atrial fibrillation, or in conjunction with surgery for other heart conditions. Our team specializes in treating patients undergoing heart surgery for other heart conditions in addition to atrial fibrillation.

Traditional atrial fibrillation procedures, including the “classic” or “cut and sew” Maze procedure, are performed through a sternotomy incision with the use of a heart-lung “bypass” machine. Electrical blocks or barriers are created in the upper heart chambers (atria), forcing electrical impulses that stimulate the heartbeat to travel to the lower chambers (ventricles).

“Classic” or “cut and sew” Maze refers to a surgical procedure developed in 1987. The scar lines are made by cutting the heart tissue and sewing it back together. We perform this procedure at Northwestern Memorial on selected patients.

Like a maze puzzle, abnormal electrical signals are redirected to move along one path to the lower chambers, restoring the heart rhythm and normal blood flow. The electrical barriers or scars that redirect electrical impulses can be made through various methods. While the chest is open, other corrective procedures may be done at the same time.

Most atrial fibrillation surgery incorporates the use of energy sources like radiofrequency or cryotherapy to make incisions and scars. The scar lines can be placed more quickly and shorten the time on the heart-lung “bypass” machine. After performing nearly 1,000 atrial fibrillation surgeries at Northwestern Memorial, we are able to offer the best treatment options for each individual patient.

Integrative Approach to Treating Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a complex disease requiring a multidisciplinary approach to treatment.

Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, is among the cardiac surgery experts who perform atrial fibrillation surgery at Northwestern Memorial. Our team of nationally recognized cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and other specialists will coordinate their efforts with your primary care physician or other referring health care provider. Dedicated nurse coordinators will follow each patient’s case, answering questions and managing the team.

Risks of Surgery

Every surgery carries some risk. Factors such as age and overall health impact risk levels. Your surgeon will discuss individual risks with you before treatment.

Contact Us Today

For more information regarding atrial fibrillation, please call the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312-694-AFIB (2342) and ask to speak with one of our dedicated atrial fibrillation nurses. Jane Kruse and Mary Navarrete can provide information, answer questions and assist you with treatment options that best fit your needs. You can also request a first-time appointment online.

Clinical Trials and Quality Ratings

For more information regarding clinical trials related to atrial fibrillation, please visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an email or call 312-926-4000.

Our quality ratings provide detailed information about data we have collected about our healthcare performance. View our quality ratings related to atrial fibrillation.

Last UpdateApril 18, 2013