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The Maze procedure is a surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular heartbeat. Because the heart is not beating correctly, blood is not pumped effectively through the chambers of the heart. This increases the chances of clots forming. If clots leave the heart, they can travel to other parts of the body, such as the brain, and stick there, causing a stroke. According to the AHA, about 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.
Most patients with atrial fibrillation do not require the Maze procedure. However, in some cases the surgical approach is optimal. An example of a patient that might need a Maze procedure is someone who is already going to have open heart surgery for another reason, like blocked blood vessels, or a valve replacement. The surgeon can do the Maze procedure while he is already working on the heart. The Maze procedure is usually very successful.
The Maze procedure is done through open heart surgery. The cardiothoracic surgeon makes tiny incisions (cuts) in the heart's atria (upper heart chambers). A device is inserted through these incisions to "ablate" or destroy certain electrical pathways in the heart and redirect them using radiofrequency current. The heart's electrical pathways cannot cross the new scar tissue produced by the radiofrequency current and can only follow the rerouted path of normal heart tissue. The rerouted electrical pathways in the heart can no longer trigger irregular heartbeats.
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