During surgical ablation, the doctor uses medical devices to make lesions on both the outside and inside of the heart. As noted earlier, lesions do not carry electrical signals through the heart. So a surgical ablation can stop erratic electrical signals and, therefore, stop atrial fibrillation. Surgical ablation is used to treat persistent and long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation when a surgeon is already operating on the heart. The overall surgery is more invasive, but the surgical ablation lesions are very durable.1
Recall that the left atrial appendage (LAA) is one of the areas of the heart where atrial fibrillation often begins. The LAA is a small, finger-like piece of tissue in the left atrium. During surgical ablation, the surgeon might close the LAA with a clip or with other devices. This prevents blood from moving between the LAA and the left atrium. Cutting off blood flow from the LAA can reduce the risk of a stroke in the future. See the areas of the heart where atrial fibrillation begins.
Remember that the ablation is being done surgically because you need another type of open-heart surgery.
Your health care provider will advise you about what you can eat or drink before the surgery. You might also be asked to stop taking certain medications before the surgery. When you get to the hospital, you will have an IV (intravenous) line put into your forearm or hand. You will receive needed fluids and medications through the IV.
When you are in the operating room, the surgical team will do the following:
After the surgery, you will be in the intensive care unit (ICU) for about 1-2 days. You will then be moved to a regular hospital room. Your total hospital stay may be less than 1 week. Many people can resume exercise and return to work in 4-6 weeks, but always follow your doctor’s advice about activity. Your health care provider will explain what you need to do during your recovery.
The risks of any open-heart surgery include: