What to Expect During a Maze Procedure

If you have a maze procedure (surgical ablation) to correct your atrial fibrillation, here’s what to expect.

How long the surgery takes depends on the type and number of heart conditions being treated, including valve replacement or repair, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), and ablation. The afib ablation usually only adds 15-20 minutes to the overall procedure.

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Surgery involves an incision of about 6 to 8 inches along the breast bone (sternum). The heart-lung machine oxygenates the blood and keeps it circulating throughout the body. An energy source, typically a bipolar radiofrequency device, creates scar tissue on the heart.

At a minimum, the pulmonary veins will be ablated to create a conduction block that prevents erratic electrical impulses from moving through the heart. A “true” maze procedure involves ablation of both the left and right atria and removing or closing the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA is a pouch on the left atrium of the heart. It is considered the source of most blood clots responsible for strokes in afib patients. Removing or closing the LAA is thought to eliminate afib stroke risk.

To learn about what happens after surgery, see What to Expect After a Maze Procedure.

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