If you are living with irregular and fast heartbeats caused by atrial fibrillation, a maze procedure can correct the abnormal electrical signals in your heart and reduce your risk for stroke.
Your heart includes four pumping chambers – the upper atria and lower ventricles – that work together with the lungs to put oxygen into your blood and send it through your body.
When you have atrial fibrillation, your heart’s rhythm is irregular and often very rapid. The atrial electrical signals fire irregularly and at a different pace than the ventricles. When the pumping action of the atria and ventricles are not coordinated, the heart’s ability to move blood and nutrients to the brain is weakened.
When this happens you may feel or experience:
- Fainting spells
- Shortness of breath
Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to pool in the atria. This increases the risk of clotting, which is a significant risk factor for a stroke.
The maze procedure is a type of surgery that interrupts the irregular electrical patterns of atrial fibrillation.
Surgeons use a tool that transmits radiofrequency energy to the pulmonary veins in the atria. This creates scar tissue that stops the abnormal electrical impulses. The scar tissue produces a new pathway for electrical signals to follow that generates a normal heart rhythm.
There are two types of maze procedures, the open-heart maze procedure and the thorascopic mini-maze minimally invasive option, which offers a faster recovery.
After the maze procedure, you will spend one to two days in intensive care and up to seven days in the hospital. Your doctor likely will prescribe blood thinners, antiarrhythmic medicines and maybe a diuretic to reduce fluid retention. Your recovery may take up to eight weeks.
- You may experience some atrial fibrillation or skipped heartbeats a few weeks or months after your procedure
- You should see your cardiologist a month after the procedure
- You will need an EKG at three months, six months and 12 months to check the electrical activity in your heart.
Most patients – 75 to 85 percent – no longer need atrial fibrillation medicines once they fully recover from the maze procedure.
Most patients never have problems with atrial fibrillation again after their maze procedure. If complications and side effects do occur, they include:
- Cardiac arrhythmias during recovery
- Fluid retention in the first weeks after surgery
- The need for a pacemaker after the maze procedure