What is Maze Surgery?
Maze surgery is a treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat. Your doctor will create a maze of scar tissue on the part of the heart that relays the electrical signals that control your heartbeat
In a normal heart, the upper chambers (atria) beat in a synchronized way with the lower chambers (ventricles) to keep blood pumping through your body. When you have AFib, those signals get out of whack. The scar tissue created by a maze procedure stops the wonky signals that lead to an irregular heartbeat and helps get your heart back on track.
When is Maze Surgery needed?
Maze surgery is done to correct atrial fibrillation and improve the quality of life of people with this condition.
Maze surgery is the preferred method of atrial fibrillation treatment if you also need another heart surgery, such as for coronary artery bypass or valve repair. In these cases, the maze procedure is done during open-heart surgery. It may also be the preferred treatment for people who don’t respond to other treatments or are experiencing a recurrence of atrial fibrillation.
What should you know before undergoing Maze Surgery?
Not everyone can safely undergo this procedure. Patients with atrial fibrillation who have tolerated their condition well and have not had problems with anticoagulation may not be recommended to get Maze Surgery.
What are the complications and side effects?
The risks of the maze procedure are similar to the risks of any heart surgery that uses a heart-lung bypass machine.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI).
- New arrhythmias.
- Needing to have a pacemaker implanted.
- Death. (About 1 or 2 deaths happen out of 100 surgeries.)
It is important you understand the precautions and know the possible complication and side effects before having this Maze Surgery. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
How do I prepare for Maze Surgery?
Preparation for a maze procedure begins a couple of weeks before your surgery date. At this time, you may be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin and other blood thinners. You may also be asked to stop smoking. You’ll also get blood work to confirm that you’re infection-free.
An electrocardiogram and chest X-ray lets your doctor see the current condition of your heart. You’ll fast the night before surgery to ensure your stomach is empty. This is because sometimes people become nauseated from anesthesia.
What happens during Maze Surgery?
You will be put to sleep with general anesthesia and placed on a heart-lung bypass machine.
For a surgical maze procedure, your doctor will make an incision in your chest and access the upper chambers of your heart. He or she will use one of several techniques to create the pattern of lines (maze). This leaves scar tissue that disrupts faulty electrical signals. Your doctor may create the lines with energy — such as heat, cold (cryotherapy) or laser — or with a scalpel.
While you are on the bypass machine, your doctor may also do other needed cardiac surgeries, such as valve repair pacemaker placement. In one study of 75 patients, 40 percent had pacemakers implanted during their maze surgery to help normalize their heart rhythm after surgery.
Select patients may be treated with a robot-assisted catheter ablation procedure called a mini-maze.
What happens after Maze Surgery?
Your recovery time will depend on which maze procedure you have.
- If it’s with open-heart surgery, you should plan on staying in the hospital for about a week. Overall, it will take about 2 months to recover if there are no complications.
- If you have a robotic-assisted procedure, you may only need to stay in the hospital a day or two after the surgery. You will also be able to return to normal activities sooner than if you have open-heart surgery. It will take about 6 months for the scars to fully form.
You may still have a few episodes of AFib during your recovery. But for many people, this procedure is successful at stopping their symptoms.
If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
What should you do after Maze Surgery?
Discomfort in the chest, ribs, and shoulders is common within the first several days following surgery. Your doctor will order pain medicines to help control this discomfort.
Medicines called diuretics are used to control fluid buildup right after surgery. Your doctor may have you take a diuretic at home for several weeks following surgery.
You may need to take a medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, after the procedure. But this is usually determined on a case-by-case basis.
Recovery is typically complete within 6 to 8 weeks following surgery. Some people have discomfort at the chest incision for several months after surgery.
You will be able to get back to your normal activities within 3 months. You may feel more tired than usual, but most people are back to normal within 6 months.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Maze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation. https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/surgicaldetail/atrial-fibrillation-maze-procedure-for/tv6752.html. Accessed October 19, 2018.
Maze Procedure for Treating Atrial Fibrillation. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/maze-procedure#3. Accessed October 19, 2018.
Atrial Fibrillation: How the Maze Procedure Works. https://www.healthline.com/health/atrial-fibrillation-how-maze-procedure-works#goal. Accessed October 19, 2018.
Atrial fibrillation ablation. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/maze-procedure/pyc-20384973. Accessed October 19, 2018.
Review Date: November 12, 2018 | Last Modified: November 12, 2018