The prevalence of atrial fibrillation is increasing and surgical ablation is becoming more common, both as a stand-alone procedure and when performed concomitantly with other cardiac surgery. Although surgical ablation is effective, with it unique challenges arise, including iatrogenic macroreentrant tachycardias that are often highly symptomatic and difficult to manage conservatively.
Postsurgical ablation, localization of the arrhythmic circuit is difficult to determine using surface ECG alone because of alterations in the atrial myocardium, and multiple different pathways are often present. Most, however, localize to the left atrium, and percutaneous catheter ablation is emerging as an effective treatment modality.
Patients with complex postoperative arrhythmias should be referred to a dedicated atrial fibrillation center when possible and symptomatic arrhythmias mapped and ablated. Knowledge of the previously performed surgical lesion set is of vital importance in understanding the mechanism of the arrhythmia and increasing procedural success rates.
Division of Cardiology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Correspondence to Pamela K. Mason, MD, Division of Cardiology, University of Virginia, PO Box 800158, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. Tel: +1 34 924 2465; fax: +1 434 982 1998; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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