Providence continues to be a leader in open heart surgery by offering the maze procedure to correct atrial fibrillation (AF).
When functioning normally, the heart’s four pumping chambers – the upper atria and lower ventricles – work in concert with the lungs to oxygenate blood and send it through the body. For a person with atrial fibrillation, the heart’s rhythm is irregular and often very rapid.
Atrial fibrillation is a common cause of stroke. Atrial fibrillation causes disturbances in the heart’s normal rhythm. About a half million new AF cases are diagnosed every year in the United States.
The atrial signals fire irregularly and at a different pace than the ventricles; this lack of coordination diminishes the heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood and its nutrients to the brain. Sufferers often feel weak, fatigued, dizzy and short of breath, and sometimes may experience fainting spells. AF can lead to stagnation of the blood in parts of the atria, creating a danger of clotting, making it a significant risk factor for a stroke.
The maze procedure was developed to interrupt AF’s irregular electrical patterns. During the procedure, the surgeon creates scar tissue in the atria with radio frequency waves. Formation and conduction of irregular electrical impulses are stopped. The scar tissue produces "dead ends," channeling the normal electrical impulses along a permanent new pathway. The hearts rhythms then work properly, and in 75 to 85 percent of cases the patient no longer needs medication.
Our surgeons also perform the thorascopic mini-maze procedure – the latest minimally invasive technique for stand-alone atrial fibrillation treatment. This utilizes three small incisions in the side of the chest and visualization with a thorascope. This results in quick recovery and return to normal activity.