The Society of Thoracic Surgeons released a new set of clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of atrial fibrillation (Afib), the most common type of irregular heartbeat. They recommend a procedure called surgical ablation, which they have proven to be safe both as a solo procedure and in combination with other heart surgeries.
Surgical ablation, also known as the “maze procedure,” resolves the arrhythmic electrical signals that characterize Afib as surgeons make small, precise hole in the heart that lead to the formation of scar tissue. Scarring then simultaneously blocks the disorganized signals that cause the atria to shake and ventricles to beat arrhythmically and recreates a path for electricity to flow through the heart. After lesions are made in the heart, the heartbeat eventually normalizes.
During their investigation of the surgical ablation procedure, the scientists studied the safety of surgical ablation performed as a standalone procedure and in combination with two different procedures: primary open atrial operations, primary closed atrial operations.
The American Heart Association estimates that nearly three million Americans are currently living with Afib, a condition that doubles the risk of heart-associated death when untreated. Afib also leads to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.
The new clinical guidelines make major recommendations for surgical ablation as a treatment for Afib. These guidelines come after almost two years of effort by the nation’s leading experts in the surgical treatment of Afib. “This important document highlights the increasing global evidence on the safety and efficacy of surgical ablation for the treatment of Afib,” said co-author Vinay Badhwawr, MD.
Surgical ablation has been used as a treatment option for Afib for nearly thirty years, but the procedure has been developed and improved constantly. Both the frequency of its use and the success of the surgery in fixing Afib and improving quality of life have constantly increased over the past couple of decades.
With the large population of Americans living with Afib, the release of the new clinical guidelines is a promising event for cardiac surgery. The guidelines study was published recently in the journal The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.