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Minimally Invasive Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Steven Peterson, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Atrial fibrillation, the most common form of heart rhythm disorder, affects about 2.5 million Americans with approximately 300,000 new cases diagnosed per year. It is predicted that 5.6 million patients will be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation by the year 2050.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition of the heart in which the upper chambers do not beat in a synchronized or coordinated manner with the lower part of the heart. Patients with atrial fibrillation experience an irregular heartbeat and can suffer from shortness of breath, lethargy and palpitations. Most patients are required to take blood thinner medications to reduce their risk of stroke, as well as other medications to attempt to control the beating of the heart.

Fortunately, patients with atrial fibrillation have a new treatment option that can eliminate the need for lifelong drug therapy. This cutting-edge, minimally invasive surgical procedure represents an exciting new treatment option for the millions of patients who are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

First in Northern Arizona to Offer Procedure

The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona and Flagstaff Medical Center are the first in Northern Arizona to introduce this breakthrough technology. The revolutionary Thoracoscopic or Stand-Alone Maze procedure is minimally invasive and often cures atrial fibrillation. The procedure disrupts the electrical impulses that cause the irregular heartbeat and promotes normal rhythm without open heart surgery.

Thoracoscopic or Stand-Alone Maze Procedure

• Surgeon works through three or four small incisions in between the ribs without dividing the sternum.
• Performed on the beating heart with no bypass machine required.
• Requires no incisions on the heart itself. The surgeon uses heat to interrupt flow of abnormal electrical signals.
• Offered as a stand-alone procedure, and is used when patient does not need open heart surgery for another diagnosis.
• Minimally invasive procedure offers many benefits including less postoperative pain, faster recovery, reduced risk of complications and shorter hospital stay.
Conventional Maze Procedure
• Standard procedure for the surgical cure of atrial fibrillation. It continues to be used successfully, but it is a complicated procedure that isn’t appropriate for all patients.
• Surgeon must divide sternum (chest bone) to access heart, heart-lung machine may be required.
• Surgeon uses a heated or freezing probe with direct access to the heart to interrupt flow of abnormal electrical signals.
• Typically performed in combination with another open heart surgery.
• Procedure is very successful, but it does not offer all of the post-operative benefits seen with a minimally invasive surgical approach like the thoracoscopic procedure.

About Dr. Steven Peterson

Steven Peterson, M.D., cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, has performed more than 4,000 open heart surgery procedures. He is the medical director of Cardiovascular Surgery at Flagstaff Medical Center, and one of the world-class physicians of the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona.
 Open heart surgery has been performed at FMC since 2004 and the extensively trained and experienced cardiovascular team is dedicated to proving high-quality, personalized care.

About HVCNA:

The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona is a partnership between Flagstaff Medical Center and Verde Valley Medical Center, with offices located in Flagstaff, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Sedona and Winslow. It combines physician office practices with extensive hospital-based services including diagnostic and interventional cardiology procedures and open heart surgery.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Peterson or any of the cardiovascular physicians at the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, call 977 928-WELL. For more information, visit