Dr. Patrick McCarthy - Surgical Ablation Surgeon

Dr. McCarthy Explains: Why I Treat Atrial Fibrillation Using the Maze Procedure

With Dr. Patrick McCarthy from Northwestern Memorial Hospital; June 10, 2019

During his extraordinary career, Dr. Patrick McCarthy has performed over 10,000 cardiac procedures of which 5,000 operations involved heart valve therapies.

Dr. Patrick McCarthy (Northwestern Memorial Hospital)

As the Executive Director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which is the #7 ranked cardiology and heart surgery program according to U.S. News & World Report, Dr. McCarthy has built a nationally recognized health care destination for patients requiring highly specialized treatment of atrial fibrillation.

That said, we met with Dr. McCarthy at the recent Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting to discuss his interests in atrial fibrillation treatment using surgical ablation techniques including the Maze procedure.   Here's the highlights of our conversation with Dr. McCarthy.

As for the key reasons why Dr. McCarthy uses the Maze procedure during concomitant procedures, here are the key takeaways:

  • Dr. McCarthy's patients often struggle with the burden of atrial fibrillation and its debilitating symptoms. 
  • Dr. McCarthy estimates that the Maze procedure in concomitant cases is only being used in about 60% of mitral valve repair operations.
  • Dr. McCarthy believes atrial fibrillation is undertreated because there is a misconception that surgical ablation is a complicated operation.  In reality, Dr. McCarthy can perform the Maze procedure in about 10 minutes. 
  • Dr. McCarthy's patients are very appreciative of AFib treatment -- especially those that are very symptomatic. 

Many thanks to Dr. Patrick McCarthy for taking the time to share his ideas about atrial fibrillation using surgical ablation.  We really appreciate Dr. McCarthy pursuit of healthy hearts and normal heart rhythms. 


Video Transcript

For the hearing impaired members of the AFibSurgeons.org community, we have provided a written transcript of Dr. McCarthy's video below: 

We know that atrial fib can kill patients. They can have a stroke. It may impair their quality of life forever. As soon as I saw the Maze procedure, I started thinking about adding it to the heart valve operation because so many patients have heart valve disease and atrial fib at the same time.

It's only being done in maybe 60% of mitral valve surgery. Why not? Partly because the procedure is viewed to be sort of complicated. The way that I've been doing the Maze procedure for the last five years or so, I think it adds about 10 minutes, not very much time at all. You can do part of the two-minute freezing while you're doing other steps of the operation and then come back and replace the cryo probe for another two minutes while you are doing something else.


Patients really appreciate this. There was a time in my life when I was doing heart transplants. I was doing Maze procedure for atrial fib, and I was doing heart valve surgery. I kind of quantify it by the number of thank-you notes that I get. I was getting an equal number of thank-you notes about the Maze procedure as I was about heart transplants.

For some patients who are really symptomatic in atrial fib and they been told there's nothing else they can do and then suddenly, they're out of atrial fib. They feel much better.