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Maze Procedure—Open Surgery
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Maze Procedure—Open Surgery Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Maze is a surgical procedure for the heart. A maze-like pattern of incisions is made in the upper chambers of the heart. The chambers are called the atria.

Maze Procedure
Maze Procedure
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam, including blood and urine tests
  • Chest x-ray —makes pictures of structures inside the chest using a small amount of radiation
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)—a test that records the heart’s activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle

In the days leading up to the procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines, including over-the-counter medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin )
  • Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), or ticlopidine (Ticlid)
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone help you at home.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • If you smoke, it is best to stop.


General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during the surgery. You may also be given a sedative before surgery to help you relax.

Description of the Procedure

After you are asleep, the doctor will cut through the skin and breastbone. The chest cavity will be opened. Next, the heart will be connected to the heart-lung machine. This machine will take over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery. Once the machine is active, the heart will be stopped.

A series of small cuts will be made in the atria. The cuts will be made in a maze-like pattern to direct the electrical impulses. The incisions will then be closed with sutures. In some cases, a pacemaker may need to be placed.

Once the maze-like pattern has been completed, the heart will be restarted. When the heart is working well, you will be removed from the heart-lung machine. The chest will be closed with wires. Finally, the skin will be closed with sutures.

Immediately After Procedure

Your recovery will be monitored in the intensive care unit. Your heart’s activity will be recorded by EKG. Pain medicine will be given to help you rest comfortably.

How Long Will It Take?

About three hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery and early recovery. Your chest will be very sore. You may have a pain pump with IV medicine for the first few days. Your doctor will recommend other medicine to help manage soreness later in recovery.

Average Hospital Stay

5-7 days

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:

  • Fluids and pain medicine will be given through an IV line. You may be given medicine to help control build up of fluids.
  • Efforts will be made to get you out of bed and walking as soon as possible.
  • You will be asked to do deep breathing and coughing exercises. This will help reduce the risk of fluid build up in your lungs.
  • If a pacemaker was placed, you will be given instruction on its care.

At Home

It can take up to six months to fully recover. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include:

  • Rest when needed. At first, it is normal to feel more tired than usual.
  • Walk daily. Activity will help with the healing process.
  • Take the pain medicine as directed. Some pain medicine causes constipation. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods.
  • Keep the incision area clean and dry.
  • Limit certain activities (eg, driving, working, doing strenuous exercise) until you have recovered.



Heart Rhythm Society

Society of Thoracic doctors


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Health Canada


Maze procedure for treatment of atrial fibrillation. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: . Accessed March 12 , 2010.

Maze surgery. Texas Heart institute website. Available at: . Updated August 2009. Accessed March 12, 2010

Patient information: the maze procedure. Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: . Updated June 2000. Accessed March 3 , 2010.

A patient’s guide to heart surgery. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: . March 12, 2010.

Wood D. Atrial fibrillation. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: . Updated September 2009. Accessed March 12, 2010.



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