Atrial Fibrillation Surgery

If you have been diagnosed with the heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation (AF) and it has not responded to medication or non-surgical procedures, Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular can offer a solution.

One of the country’s leading experts in surgical AF ablation – a procedure called the Maze procedure – is right here in Portland. Thomas Molloy, MD, is well recognized for a minimally invasive, robotically assisted approach to treating atrial fibrillation and has a published track record of excellent outcomes.

What is atrial fibrillation?

Abnormalities of the heart’s electrical system can result in abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia, occurs when the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat in a disorganized way, causing a rapid, irregular heartbeat. Symptoms may include palpitations, shortness of breath and anxiety.

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

Atrial fibrillation may be controlled with medication, or it may require catheter-based intervention (see electrophysiology). If these treatments do not resolve symptoms, surgery may be an option.

Surgical ablation for atrial fibrillation (Maze procedure)

The surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation is called the Maze procedure, or surgical ablation. Dr. Molloy performs a minimally invasive Maze procedure (often referred to as a mini-Maze) that allows him to correct the irregular heart rhythm without performing open-heart surgery. As a result, the risk of complications is reduced and patients have a much shorter hospital stay.

During the robotically assisted Maze procedure:

  • Molloy inserts an endoscope (for viewing the heart) and specialized robotic instruments through tiny incisions on the side of the chest
  • Then he uses cryotherapy (freezing) or radiofrequency energy to form scar tissue, which does not conduct electricity. This disrupts the path of abnormal electrical impulses.
  • The atrial appendage (a pocket-like section of the left atrium) is also closed to decrease the risk of future stroke

Surgical ablation may be performed as a standalone procedure or it may be combined with other heart surgery, if appropriate.

At Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular, patients undergoing standalone surgical ablation are in the hospital for an average of 3 days. Our success rates range from 80% to 95% depending on the type of atrial fibrillation and other patient-specific factors – a rate that is equal to or slightly better than national benchmarks.

Am I a candidate for surgical ablation to treat my atrial fibrillation?

You may be a candidate for surgical atrial fibrillation ablation if your symptoms have not responded to catheter-based ablation, or you are not a good candidate for catheter ablation due to certain medical conditions.

Would you like to learn more about atrial fibrillation ablation in Portland? Please call us to schedule a consultation: (503) 257-0959.