Ablation Procedures

Oklahoma Heart Institute’s Advanced Center for Atrial Fibrillation offers multiple procedures that may eliminate A-Fib. As with any surgery, there are risks involved. Oklahoma Heart Institute physicians will explain the risks and advantages of each procedure and discuss what might be right for you.

Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation is an effort to remove the principal cause of a patient’s A-Fib. In this procedure, a small catheter is inserted through a vein in the groin and threaded up to the heart where it makes a small hole to access the inner heart.

If the heart is beating erratically and too quickly, the electrodes at the end of the catheter can help the cardiologist locate the faulty electrical sites. These sites are then scarred (or ablated) with hot or cold energy. The scars block the primary electrical impulses responsible for A-Fib. The success rate for curing A-Fib with catheter ablation varies and sometimes there is still a need for patients to take anticoagulants. If necessary, your physician may suggest the procedure be repeated. The procedure can take up to six hours to perform. Typically, two to three nights of hospital stay are required.

Open-Chest Surgical Ablation

More than 35,000 patients have opted for this procedure. Frequently referred to as the Maze, this procedure has a high success rate for a broad range of A-Fib patients – including chronic A-Fib patients. However, while open-chest surgical ablation can cure A-Fib, this highly-invasive procedure calls for open-heart surgery and generally includes heart-lung bypass.

If surgery is already being considered for other reasons such as a valve repair or replacement, your doctor may recommend this option. It only takes an extra 15 to 25 minutes to create the necessary ablations to block the abnormal electrical impulses that cause A-Fib.

In addition, many surgeons will close or remove the left atrial appendage (a small flap on the heart) that is thought to be the primary location where blood clots form during A-Fib, which could lead to a stroke.

Minimally-Invasive Surgical Ablation

Frequently referred to as the Mini-Maze, this recently developed procedure is minimally-invasive. This procedure is similar to the open-chest ablation but differs in that the surgeon gains access to the heart by way of three small incisions on each side of the chest.

This approach generally takes two to four hours. As in the open-chest procedure, the cardiovascular surgeon uses hot or cold energy to make precise ablations within certain areas of the heart to stop the abnormal A-Fib-causing electrical impulses. Many surgeons may also remove or close the small flap on the heart where most stroke-causing blood clots occur.