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What is the Maze Procedure?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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The maze procedure is a type of heart surgery used to fix a condition that involves an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation. The surgical procedure involves creating scar tissue at strategic locations around the heart. This helps regulate the erratic electric impulses that contribute to an irregular heartbeat.

The atria consists of the upper chambers of the heart. The pumping of the heart is controlled by electrical impulses that run through these chambers. When these electrical signals are irregular, it causes the heart to also beat irregularly. In individuals suffering from atrial fibrillation, there is an increased chance of suffering other conditions, such as a stroke, the formation of blood clots, or heart-related disorders. The maze procedure helps correct the irregular heartbeat and in turn helps lower the chances of suffering from a related condition.

This procedure can be done in several ways, but each involves creating scar tissue on the tissues of the heart; this can be done by freezing some of the tissues to create the scars, or alternately applying heat to specific areas. In some cases, small incisions may also be made. Once these wounds heal, the scar tissue is built up around the heart and interrupts the unwanted electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat irregularly. Once these signals have been interrupted, the heart typically resumes its regular rhythm, which relieves the stress not only on the heart but on the rest of the body.

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Surgery can be done either by a minimally invasive process or by major surgery. In the first option, an incision is made beneath the arm and between the ribs to allow the surgeon access to the heart in order to create the scar tissue, which is typically done by freezing small sections of the heart. When this is done, recovery time is often shorter.

Alternately, the maze procedure can also be done by opening the chest cavity and performing a type of open heart surgery. When using this method, medical professionals must stop the heart from beating and sustain the individual using machinery. Recovery time is generally longer, and there is a risk of infection, a buildup of fluid inside the chest cavity, or internal bleeding. The advantage of open heart surgery is the option to fix other problems at the same time.

Those who have undergone open heart surgery before are still candidates for the procedure. It has been deemed safe for patients of all ages, and those who are suffering from another heart-related condition can often have both the atrial fibrillation and co-existing condition fixed at the same time. The maze procedure has met with considerable success, but it is not foolproof. In some individuals, there is still the chance that the atrial fibrillation will continue.

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