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Surgeons announce advance in atrial fibrillation surgery
Date:4/7/2008

Heart surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that by adding a simple 10-20 second step to an operative procedure they achieved a significant improvement in the outcome for the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF).

Reporting in the April issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the surgeons describe an enhancement to the Cox-Maze procedure, a surgical procedure that redirects wayward electrical impulses causing AF by creating precisely placed scars, or ablations, in the heart muscle. The Cox-Maze procedure is highly effective, offering the best long-term cure rate for persistent atrial fibrillation.

The surgeons added one ablation to the series of ablations typically made during the Cox-Maze procedure and that short step improved how well patients did after surgery. As a result, they recommend using this extra ablation in all patients undergoing the procedure.

"The single additional ablation creates what we call a box lesion," explains Ralph J. Damiano Jr., M.D., the John Shoenberg Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine. "The box lesion surrounds and electrically isolates the pulmonary veins and the posterior left atrial wall from the rest of the left atrium. Our study shows excellent success when using the box lesion, and we recommend it for any patient with long-standing atrial fibrillation."

AF is the most common irregular heart rhythm and affects more than 2 million people in the United States. During atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers (atria) of the heart beat rapidly and quiver instead of contracting, drastically reducing the amount of blood they pump. AF can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, heart palpitations and stroke.

The area of the heart near the pulmonary veins is a common source of the irregular electrical impulses that can cause AF. Without the box lesion, in some patients this area could still support
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Contact: Gwen Ericson
ericsong@wustl.edu
314-286-0141
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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