Harvard Heart Letter

Finding your way through the (mini) Maze

Minimally invasive operations for atrial fibrillation are on the rise. How well they work is up in the air.

In 1987, a St. Louis surgeon created an operation called the Maze that successfully stopped atrial fibrillation, a rapid and uncoordinated beating of the heart's upper chambers that affects more than two million Americans. Since then, surgeons and inventors have been trying to shrink this complex, open-heart operation into a smaller one that is just as effective but easier on the heart and body.

A handful of "mini-Maze" procedures are now being performed around the country. They don't always live up to their name — some take liberties with the mini part, others with the Maze. The doctors doing these procedures passionately believe in their effectiveness. Unfortunately, that passion hasn't yet translated into hard numbers on how well the procedures work.

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