What Is a Maze Procedure?
A maze procedure is a surgery used to control atrial fibrillation -- or "a-fib," a heart condition where the heart rhythm is irregular. If it can't be controlled by medication or other treatments, a maze procedure may be an appropriate treatment. It gets this name from the linear scars left on the heart's chambers post-surgery, like a maze.
Uncontrolled atrial fibrillation can increase the risk for strokes. It can also make a person feel weak and distressed, since the heart is pumping less efficiently.
To understand the procedure, it is important to know that the heart has its own electrical system, which directs the different activities of the heart muscle. In a normal heart, the electrical system first triggers the left and right atrium (upper heart chambers) to contract, then the ventricles (lower heart chambers).
During atrial fibrillation, the signal is splintered as though it is taking multiple routes through a maze, causing different areas of the atrium to contract at different times as each route takes a different length of time to for the signal to travel. This fluttering effect, with different parts of the atrium contracting at different times, is called fibrillation.
The maze procedure stops the electrical impulse from taking multiple paths, and forces the signal into a single path, which allows the entire atrium to contract at the same time.