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Open Chest Maze Procedure

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

An open chest maze procedure is heart surgery done to treat atrial fibrillation.

Heart Chambers


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats.
  • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your surgery:

  • An incision will be made in the center of your breastbone or in your chest wall. You will be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine that does the work of your heart and lungs during surgery.
  • Your surgeon will work on your heart to make a new heartbeat pathway that is shaped like a maze. You will be taken off of the heart-lung bypass machine, allowing your heart and lungs to work on their own.
  • Wires may be put into your chest that improve your heartbeat. The incision in your chest will be closed with wire and stitches.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you may be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.

  • You may need to walk around the same day of surgery , or the day after. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let healthcare providers know you need help.
  • A chest tube is used to remove air, blood, or fluid from around your lungs or heart. This will let your lungs fill up with air when you breathe, and will help your heart beat normally. The chest tube is attached to a container to collect the blood or fluid. Call a healthcare provider right away if the tube comes apart from the container. Let the healthcare provider know if the tubing gets bent, twisted, or the tape comes loose. You may need more than one chest tube.
  • An arterial line is a tube that is placed into an artery (blood vessel), usually in the wrist or groin. An arterial line may be used for measuring your blood pressure or for taking blood.
  • A temporary pacemaker is a device that helps your heart beat at a normal speed and in a regular rhythm. It is connected to the wires that were put into your heart muscle during your surgery. The wires may then be connected to a small pacemaker outside of your body. You may need this pacemaker treatment just for a short time.
  • Medicines:
    • Antiarrhythmics are given to make your heart beat at a regular rate and rhythm.
    • Anticoagulants are used to help thin your blood to prevent blood clots. You may bleed or bruise more easily while you are taking this medicine.
    • Diuretics help get rid of extra fluid that collects in a part of your body, such as your legs. Diuretics can also remove fluid from around your heart or lungs and lower your blood pressure. You may urinate more often when you take this medicine.
    • Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Antinausea medicine helps calm your stomach and prevents vomiting.
    • Pain medicine may be given. Tell healthcare providers right away if you start feeling discomfort, pressure, burning, or tightness in your chest. Tell healthcare providers right away if you start sweating, have trouble breathing, or feel discomfort in your arm, back, neck, or jaw. Any of these may be a sign that your heart is not getting enough oxygen, and may need medicine to help.


You may bleed more than expected and need more surgery. Your body may hold onto too much fluid, or your kidneys may fail. You may have swelling of your heart or other tissues. Your heart may not work as it should after surgery. You may need a permanent pacemaker. You may continue to have atrial fibrillation for several months after your surgery. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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