The 'Mini' Way to Stop Atrial Fibrillation in its Tracks: There's new hope for the hundreds of thousands of Americans with intermittent atrial fibrillation: the 'mini-Maze,' a minimally invasive version of the Cox-Maze procedure that involves scarring the heart to allow electrical impulses sent by the brain to travel correctly.
Richard Lee, M.D., a Saint Louis University School of Medicine cardiac surgeon, recently became the first surgeon in the state of Missouri and one of only a handful in the country to perform the mini-Maze, which is for patients with non-continuous atrial fibrillation, a condition that occurs when the upper and lower chambers of the heart begin beating at mismatched rhythms. Left untreated, it increases the risk of stroke and can lead to long-term heart failure.
With the help of micro-miniature television cameras, surgeons ablate - or destroy tissue by burning it - and electrically isolate the pulmonary veins, where the triggers that activate atrial fibrillation are located.
'Before I put my own patients at risk, I wanted to make sure this surgery was as good as it had been purported, and there are now studies that show it has a 90 percent success rate at curing atrial fibrillation,' Lee says. 'Patient safety is my number one priority, and I believe the mini-Maze has tremendous potential to make people's lives better.'