Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, frequently rapid heart rhythm originating in the atria (top chambers of the heart). Instead of the normal situation (normal sinus rhythm) in which a single impulse travels in an orderly fashion through the heart, in AF many impulses begin simultaneously and spread through the atria, causing a rapid and disorganized heartbeat.
At one time, atrial fibrillation was thought to be a harmless annoyance. However, atrial fibrillation is now recognized as a dangerous condition. Atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of death. It also increases the risk of stroke five to seven times compared to a person without atrial fibrillation. In addition, atrial fibrillation may cause congestive heart failure and uncomfortable symptoms related to a rapid heart rate. Advances in ablation (both minimal invasive surgical and catheter) offer the possibility of cure to a large number of patients.
This operation is frequently performed in conjunction with other heart surgeries, such as mitral valve repair or coronary artery bypass, but is also performed as a stand-alone procedure for patients with atrial fibrillation. This procedure can be performed through one or two very small incisions (minimally invasive). The minimally invasive approach is performed with the use of a videoscope. Like many other heart surgeries performed here, surgical radiofrequency ablation can be done on a beating heart and does not require use of a heart-lung machine.
Radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation is an option if: