Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia, a disturbance in the heart's rate or rhythm. Ordinarily, the atria (the heart's upper chambers) and the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) contract to move blood steadily through the heart. In atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib), the electrical signal that causes the atria to contract vibrates in an uncoordinated way. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the atria may fire more than 400 times per minute without contracting. Atrial fibrillation may also affect the ventricles, leading to an uneven, fast heart rate.
Left untreated, AFib can lead to cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), heart failure or stroke. Treatment for AFib focuses on eliminating the factors that may cause the condition, and could include medication and surgery.
One surgical treatment for AFib is the Maze procedure. Using this approach, the heart surgeon uses small incisions or an energy source to create scar tissue to block the abnormal electric signals associated with AFib. The Maze procedure is a treatment option for patients when medication does not control AFib, when patients do not tolerate AFib medication or if the patient has experienced a stroke.