A single center's experience with pacemaker implantation after the Cox maze procedure for atrial fibrillation

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The Cox maze procedure (CM) is safe and effective for all atrial fibrillation (AF) types. A recent randomized trial found alarming rates of pacemaker implantation (PMI) during hospitalization after CM. The purpose of this study was to assess the rate of PMI and its impact on outcomes after CM.


Incidence of PMI was captured for all CM patients (2005–2015; N = 739). Data were collected prospectively. Multivariable logistic regression was conducted to determine risk factors for PMI. Propensity score matching was conducted between concomitant CM patients and patients without surgical ablation since 2011.


Fifty-two patients (7.0%) had in-hospital PMI after CM. Most common primary indication for PMI was sick sinus syndrome (67%), followed by complete heart block (23%) and sinus bradycardia (10%). The only risk factor for in-hospital PMI was type of procedure (P = .020). Patients with multiple valve procedures were at greatest risk (P = .004-.035). STS-defined perioperative outcomes were similar for patients with and without in-hospital PMI. Sinus rhythm off antiarrhythmic drugs were similar by PMI. After propensity score matching (n = 180 per group), in-hospital PMI was similar in CM patients and those without surgical ablation (5% vs 4%, P = .609).


This study demonstrated lower incidence of PMI after CM procedures than recently reported. When indicated, PMI was not associated with increased short- or long-term morbidity or inferior freedom from atrial arrhythmia. Efforts to increase surgeon training with the CM procedure and postoperative management awareness are warranted to improve rhythm outcome and minimize adverse events and PMI.

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