Mini-Maze Surgery Offers Hope to Atrial Fibrillation Patients For Whom Other Treatments Haven’t Worked

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. is the only hospital in the state to offer the minimally invasive Lone Atrial Fibrillation Ablation often referred to as a "mini-maze" procedure. The surgery offers hope to atrial fibrillation patients for whom other treatments have not worked.

The American Heart Association states 2.2 million people in the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF), putting them at risk for clots and stroke. Characterized by a rapid, irregular heartbeat, AF is due largely to abnormal electrical impulses that cause the two upper chambers of the heart-the atria-to quiver instead of beating steadily. The heart is unable to pump blood completely out of the atria, impacting cardiac performance and also allowing the blood to pool and potentially clot.

The most common treatment for atrial fibrillation is anticoagulant drugs, which do not address the abnormal heartbeat, but instead are used to prevent the formation of blood clots. However, some people cannot tolerate blood thinners or antiarrhythmic medications, and some fail catheter ablation or multiple cardioversions. For these, the mini-maze procedure can eliminate atrial fibrillation.

According to Cardiovascular Surgeon William Harris, MD, the technology in doing this has been around for a few years. "Many people don't know this is an option for them, but it is a highly effective way to treat AF, with an 85 to 95 percent chance to cure it."

In the procedure, surgeons make an incision between the ribs, and with the help of a fiber optic camera, they guide a special instrument that fits around the heart's atrium. This means there are only small incisions and no division of bones or spreading of ribs. The device then destroys a small amount of tissue in the area where the abnormal electrical pulses originate. The damaged tissue can no longer conduct electrical impulses, interrupting the transmission of the abnormal signal and allowing the rest of the chamber to resume beating normally. In addition the left atrial appendage, a fingerlike structure where clots may form, is removed.

"Patients are then able to maintain normal rhythm without the use of medication," Dr. Harris added. "With this electrical isolation in conjunction with removing the atrial appendage, the risk of stroke is significantly reduced."

Dr. Harris stated in conclusion that compared to conventional surgery, patients could return to normal activity more quickly after the procedure and probably experience less pain.

For more information, call the Baptist Health Line at 601-948-6262.

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