Recovery of sinus rhythm after mitral valve surgery in patients with chronic atrial fibrillation lowers thromboembolic risk and improves survival and quality of life. This article reviews the principal surgical procedures devised in the 1980s and 1990s to treat atrial fibrillation during mitral valve operations. Advantages and drawbacks of the different techniques are discussed. Traditional atrial fibrillation surgery is technically demanding and increases operative morbidity. Simplified techniques, mostly limited to the left atrium, have been developed to reduce operation time and procedure-related complications. Intraoperative radiofrequency ablation has recently proven extremely effective in atrial fibrillation surgery, allowing a further simplification of the procedures. We report the results of an original technique for atrial fibrillation treatment during mitral valve surgery through epicardial radiofrequency ablation. Based on recently reported results of atrial fibrillation surgery and on prognostic considerations, specific treatment of both chronic and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is indicated in virtually all affected patients undergoing mitral valve surgery.
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