Cardiothoracic Surgery


Cardiothoracic Surgical

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Atrial Fibrillation Surgery

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is when the heart beats too quickly, too slowly or in an irregular way. There’s a problem with the electrical signal that makes the heart pump. Over time, this condition can:

  • Reduce function of the heart and potentially lead to heart failure, stroke, gangrene and other life-threatening complications
  • Cause blood clots to form and travel to other parts of the body, potentially causing serious, even life-threatening, complications
  • Increase the risk of stroke

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans have AFib. That number is expected to grow as our population ages.

Surgical treatments for AFib

If you have been diagnosed with AFib, our team of specialists in The University of Toledo Medical Center’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery can advise you whether you are a candidate for surgical intervention.

Our skilled cardiothoracic surgeons are experienced in performing a variety of procedures to treat AFib, including:

Cox-Maze procedure

Dr. James Cox developed the Maze procedure, the first successful AFib treatment, more than two decades ago. Surgeons create a maze-like pattern of incisions in the upper part of the heart and stitch the cut ends together. The resulting scar tissue prevents the erratic electrical impulses of AFib and restores the heart’s natural rhythm. This procedure is the most invasive but also highly effective, with a greater than 90 percent cure rate and a negligible stroke rate.  


This minimally invasive cardiac surgery allows surgeons to treat AFib without opening the breastbone, which reduces the risks of the procedure and results in a shorter recovery time. The procedure can be done using standard laparoscopic techniques or robotically with the daVinci Surgical System, depending on patient and physician preference.

CryoMaze lowers the risk of stroke and irregular heartbeat and eliminates the need for blood thinners and post-surgical limitations. The success rate can be as high as 95 percent when performed by an expert surgeon on the appropriate patient.

CryoMaze is equally effective in patients who have had no previous interventions for AFib and those who have had one or more failed catheter ablations (see below).

Atrial clip

This procedure closes off the left atrial appendage to reduce the risk of clot formation inside the heart. Patients no longer have a high risk of strokes and can cease taking blood thinners.

Catheter ablation

Catheter ablation uses heat or cold to remove or “ablate” the heart tissue that is producing erratic signals. This technique has a lower success rate than CryoMaze or Cox-Maze, especially in patients with persistent or chronic AFib ― those who are in AFib all the time. But it is the least invasive procedure.

Last Updated: 6/27/22