Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

What Is Atrial Fibrilation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm (cardiac arrhythmia) which involves the two small, upper heart chambers (the atria). Heart beats in a normal heart begin after electricity generated in the atria by the sinoatrial node spreads through the heart and causes contraction of the heart muscle and pumping of blood. In AF, the regular electrical impulses of the sinoatrial node are replaced by disorganized, rapid electrical impulses which result in irregular heart beats. Atrial fibrillation is often asymptomatic, but may result in symptoms of palpitations, fainting, chest pain, or even heart failure. These symptoms are especially common when atrial fibrillation results in a heart rate which is either too fast or too slow. In addition, the erratic motion of the atria leads to blood stagnation which increases the risk of blood clots that may travel from the heart to the brain and other areas. Thus, AF is an important risk factor for stroke, the most feared complication of atrial fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrilation Surgery

  • Cox-Maze SurgeryThis procedure requires the surgeon to perform a major operation where the surgeon would have to open the breastbone and stop the heart. “Maze” refers to the series of incisions made in upper chambers of the heart, which are arranged in a maze-like pattern. The intention was to eliminate AF by using scarred tissues to block abnormal electrical circuits that AF requires. This procedure requires an extensive series of incisions inside the heart through both atria, vertical incision through the breastbone and the use of the heart-lung machine.
  • Thoracoscopic Atrial Fibrillation SurgeryIn this new minimally invasive video assisted thoracoscopic microwave procedure, surgeons insert three thoracoscopes — small telescopes — into the chest through small incisions. This allows the surgeon to guide a catheter around the left atrium to create a scar tissue. The surgeon then uses microwave energy to destroy the portion of the heart surface that causes the elevated heart beat associated with AF.


Other Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery services: