Learn more about cardiac ablation surgery on the Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular website.

Your heartbeat is controlled by your heart's electrical system. An electrical signal spreads from the top chambers of your heart to the bottom chambers. This triggers a normal heartbeat and blood is then pumped out of the heart to the rest of the body. Abnormalities of the heart's electrical system can result in abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Examples of abnormal heart rhythms include supraventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

Some abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can be controlled with medication or lifestyle changes. In some instances, your doctor may recommend a procedure to correct the abnormal heart rhythm.


Ablation by definition means to remove and is a procedure used to treat an abnormal heart rhythm, also known as an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia can cause the heart to pump less effectively. The condition can be treated either surgically or non-surgically, depending on the type of arrhythmia classified and localized by a specialist.

Nonsurgical Ablation

Nonsurgical ablation is performed in an electrophysiology laboratory by an electrophysiologist (a cardiologist trained in the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms). A catheter (a thin, hollow tube) is inserted into a specific section of the heart through a vessel in the groin or arm. Radiofrequency energy is sent through the tube; this process results in disconnecting the electrical pathways leading to the arrhythmia.

Gary - Robotic Surgery Patient

Surgical Ablation

Surgical ablation, is performed by a cardiac surgeon and involves one of the following:
  • The MAZE procedure is performed during open-heart surgery for coronary artery bypass surgery or valve surgery. The surgeon makes small incisions in the heart that interrupt the electrical impulses causing the abnormal heart rhythm. As the heart heals, scar tissue forms, effectively blocking the harmful impulses from reaching the heart.
  • The minimally invasive procedure is similar to the Maze but performed through small incisions with robotic endoscopic techniques. Robotic endoscopic surgery uses small mechanical arms that have a camera and instruments attached, which are controlled by the cardiac surgeon.