Robotic Maze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

Surgeons at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin have been performing robotic maze procedures. The electrophysiology cardiology team, and the surgical team work together to assess patients with atrial fibrillation. If atrial fibrillation cannot be treated with medication or other nonsurgical procedures, patients may be referred for a robotic maze procedure.
This procedure allows the surgeon to correct the electrical irregularity in the atria without performing open-heart surgery. With the robotic maze procedure, patients experience fewer potential complications and a much shorter hospital stay than with traditional open surgery.
The procedure
The robotic maze procedure takes two to three hours to perform. The need for a heart-lung bypass machine for this surgery is eliminated by deflating the lungs to provide access to the heart. The pericardium is opened, and catheters are inserted around the heart from the right side. The operation is continued on the left side by connecting the catheters, forming a loop around the heart. A microwave probe is used around the left atrium which creates heat to form a lesion around the atrium.
Good candidates for the maze procedure are: 
  • Patients who cannot tolerate drugs
  • Patients whose quality of life is limited by drugs
  • Patients whose hearts continue to slip into an irregular rhythm 
Most patients are able to go home one or two days after surgery and should be able to return to work in three to 10 days if there are no complications. Some patients may experience some residual symptoms of arrhythmia, such as heart palpitations or a lack of energy, because it takes up to six months for scar tissue to completely form after ablation.
UW Hospital and Clinics is unique because our surgeons work collaboratively with electrophysiology cardiologists to evaluate each patient and determine the best possible treatment options. These may include medication, nonsurgical techniques, surgery, or a combination of all three. We find this collaborative approach is the safest, most effective way to treat atrial fibrillation.