Maze Procedure

One patient described it "like a bunch of scared bullfrogs in a bag inside my chest that were trying to jump out."
It's Atrial Fibrillation, (AF) an abnormality of the electrical systems of the heart. One of the most common irregular heart rhythms, it affects more than 2.2 million people in the United States. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, lack of energy, dizziness, chest discomfort and shortness of breath.
Left untreated, chronic AF can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and even death. Fortunately, several treatment options are available, including medications and lifestyle changes. When those do not work, procedures such as electrical cardioversion or catheter ablation are often successful in alleviating symptoms. But they aren't effective for everyone. Some patients are so uncomfortable when they're in atrial fibrillation, or suffer such adverse side effects from the medications to treat the condition, that surgical intervention is needed.
The good news is that for these patients, an innovative surgery called the Maze procedure has proven highly successful in curing atrial fibrillation.
According to Paul Pearson, MD, Marshfield Clinic cardiovascular surgeon on staff at Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital, the Maze procedure involves a series of precise incisions made in the atrium of the heart to create electrical barriers and specific pathways for electrical activation of the heart. This allows for only one major route for an electrical impulse to travel through both atria of the heart—hence the term "maze." Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital is one of only a few hospitals in Wisconsin offering the procedure.
"The Maze procedure is an open heart procedure, so it's only considered when other treatment methods have failed," said Dr. Pearson. "The procedure can also be performed in conjunction with other cardiac surgical procedures. In a recent case, the patient needed open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve, and we were able to use the Maze procedure to cure his longstanding AF as well."
Hospital stays after the procedure are generally 7 days, with compete recovery within six to eight weeks. Published results for the procedure have been impressive.
"The Maze procedure was first developed in the 1980s, and studies show that the procedure has a cure rate of up to 90 percent for longstanding atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Pearson. "Symptoms are eliminated and patients experience a lower incidence of stroke and blood clots. For AF patients, it can significantly improve their quality of life."


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