CryoMaze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in the United States. Approximately 2.5 million Americans have atrial fibrillation. It becomes more common with increasing age -- more than 10 percent of individuals age 80 and higher have atrial fibrillation.

University of Maryland Heart Center cardiac surgeons are pioneering the use of cryotherapy to cure atrial fibrillation. Known as CryoMaze, this procedure creates electrical barriers in the upper chamber of the heart by applying an Argon-powered cold probe. By freezing the tissue to very cold temperatures, electrical activity is permanently blocked. Electrical barriers can be created in 60-90 seconds, minimizing the duration of the procedure.

The CryoMaze procedure restores a regular coordinated heartbeat, abolishes atrial fibrillation, and restores coordinated pumping to the upper chambers of the heart.

Review the Frequently Asked Questions about CryoMaze.

Minimally Invasive Approach

University of Maryland cardiac surgeons have successfully performed the CryoMaze procedure using a videoscopic keyhole approach. This minimally invasive procedure is performed through a 2-inch incision in the right side of the chest into which a camera is inserted. This allows patients to return to regular activities within 3 weeks, rather than 8-10 weeks after a more invasive operation with a larger incision.

High Success Rates

Among the first 20 patients to undergo the CryoMaze procedure at the UM Medical Center, 95 percent are in normal sinus rhythm (atrial fibrillation abolished) with an average follow-up of 8 months. Among patients more than 6 months out from surgery, 77 percent are no longer on coumadin (warfarin). This blood-thinning medication has been shown to be effective in decreasing the rate of strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation, but is associated with a significant long-term risk of hemorrhage. 

CryoMaze and Mitral Valve Repair

The CryoMaze procedure is often performed during a mitral valve repair surgery. The CryoMaze procedure typically adds only about 20-30 minutes to a mitral valve operation, and is highly effective in curing atrial fibrillation. In conjunction with a mitral valve repair, the CryoMaze procedure can mean freedom from long-term use of blood thinners for many patients.

This page was last updated: February 4, 2014

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