Atrial Fibrillation or Afib (AF) is the most common heart arrhythmia disorder. There are roughly 2.3 million people living with Afib in the US and roughly 160,000 new patients are diagnosed every year according to the Heart Rhythm Society. Atrial Fibrillation is caused by rapid electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart (or atria) that can disrupt blood flow, causing an irregular rhythm, and can lead to stroke.
Surgical treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
There are a variety of alternative surgical approaches to AF. The approaches utilize various energy sources and can be performed either as a lone procedure, in conjunction with other cardiac surgery procedures and/or as a hybrid procedure. The choice of surgical approach to AF ablation should be based on the presence of concomitant cardiac pathology, the nature of AF and other patient specific characteristics and a balancing of operative risk with optimal surgical outcomes.
The Cox-Maze procedure, named after the cardiac surgeon who developed this procedure, remains the gold standard treatment of AF. This procedure has been revised to the Cox-Maze IV which allows the use of high-frequency radio waves or freezing techniques to break up the abnormal electrical pathways that cause the fibrillation. By destroying these abnormal pathways, in a complex pattern, a “maze” is created that allows only one electrical signal to travel across the heart, restoring a regular rhythm.
Recently, a new procedure known as the Convergent Procedure, is a minimally invasive approach to the treatment of AF. This procedure is a collaborative effort between a cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist to effectively treat patients with chronic atrial fibrillation. The procedure utilizes radiofrequency to block irregular electrical signals by producing lesions, or scar tissue, on the heart.