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New Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)


John R. Garrett, MD, Chief of Cardiac, Vascular & Thoracic Surgery with the Heart Center's clinical team.

Virginia Hospital Center was the first hospital in Northern Virginia to offer the new minimally invasive Convergent Maze procedure for patients with advanced Afib symptoms who have not responded to standard treatments. This new procedure has been added to the Hospital’s state-of-the-art Cardiac Surgery Program and Electrophysiology Service. It combines the best of cardiac surgery and electrophysiology to help restore normal heart rhythm for Afib sufferers with:

  • no incisions or ports in the patient’s chest
  • minimal pain
  • shorter hospital stays
  • shorter recovery time.

The Convergent Maze Procedure gives patients an opportunity to get back what Afib often takes away—the energy to do the everyday things that most people take for granted, like an evening walk or a trip to the grocery store.

During the Convergent Maze procedure, radiofrequency, or heat, is used to produce lesions (scar tissue) on the heart which result in an ability to block abnormal electrical signals causing Afib. Instead of invasive chest incisions in an open heart procedure, a cardiac surgeon first makes a small incision in the patient’s abdomen right below the diaphragm. Air is blown into the cavity, a scope and a camera are inserted, and the surgeon then uses the radiofrequency waves in the scope to create lesions on the outside surface of the heart.

Immediately following the cardiac surgeon, an electrophysiologist threads catheters through the patient’s femoral vein in the groin to reach and treat the inside of the heart using radiofrequency or cryoablation (cryoablation uses coolant rather than heat). Diagnostic techniques are conducted during the procedure to ensure that all abnormal electrical signals have been eliminated. Patients taking daily heart rate and heart rhythm medications are able to discontinue use soon after the procedure.

The Convergent Maze procedure isn’t for everyone. Patients who are candidates for this new procedure are those who have not responded to standard Afib treatment options such as medications and catheter radiofrequency ablation. Patients who have undergone previous cardiac surgery are not eligible for the procedure.

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About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (Afib), is the most common and one of the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in America. Approximately 3 million Americans are estimated to have the disease. Afib occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat very rapidly and irregularly. When this happens, blood doesn’t pump efficiently to the rest of the body. Symptoms include palpitations, chest discomfort or pain, fainting or lightheadedness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, patients are at an increased risk of developing heart failure and they are up to five times as likely to suffer a stroke.

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