Cardiothoracic Surgeon Performing Maze Procedure to Treat AFib and Save Lives - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on May 08, 2015

Crozer-Keystone Cardiothoracic Surgeon Performing Maze Procedure to Treat AFib and Save Lives

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

Evelyn Rawls

Evelyn and Francois Rawls

CHESTER, Pa. — Evelyn Rawls knew something just wasn’t right. For the last three to four years her heart would race every now and then. But just last year, the 57-year old Chester resident noticed that her sometimes racing heart now never slowed down. She went right to her cardiologist, Crozer-Keystone’s John Godfrey, D.O.

Rawls learned that she had a leaky valve caused by mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition that causes blood to flow backward into the left atrium. Typically, the mitral valve has two flaps that come together to form a tight barrier between the left atrium (upper chamber of the heart) and left ventricle (lower chamber of the heart). In those who have mitral valve prolapse, the flaps separating the two chambers do not close all the way—allowing for regurgitation (blood flow backward when the heart contracts).

The condition is relatively harmless for most people. But for someone like Rawls, who was also experiencing atrial fibrillation (an abnormally fast heartbeat), mitral valve regurgitation can be a serious and even life-threatening condition.

Rawls was referred to surgeon Charles M. Geller, M.D., chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Crozer-Keystone Health System. Dr. Geller performed a complex mitral valve repair along with a radiofrequency Maze procedure to bring Rawls’ heart rhythm back into a normal range.

“The mitral valve repair procedure can be quite complex. It involves reducing the size of the valve with a support ring, tailoring abnormal parts of the leaflets and replacing structures underneath the valve with artificial cords,” Dr. Geller says. These “neocords” actually help hold the valve closed and prevent the blood from flowing in the wrong direction.

The Maze procedure is a novel surgical technique using radiofrequency waves to treat atrial fibrillation. The surgeon creates multiple lesions, forming a “maze” that traps the impulses which cause the heart to beat too fast. Additionally, a portion of the heart known as the left atrial appendage is removed, eliminating a potential site for the formation of life-threatening blood clots.

Dr. Geller says that the combination of mitral valve repair and Maze procedure will both prolong and dramatically improve Rawls’ quality of life. She can now enjoy her favorite activities without shortness of breath and the discomfort of a rapid heartbeat. She sees David Kleinman, M.D., chief of Electrophysiology at Crozer-Keystone Health System, for regular checkups. “He is excellent,” Rawls says. “And Dr. Geller—he is wonderful. Anyone who goes to him is getting a great surgeon.”

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are hard to identify, as they sometimes are silent or mimic other diseases, but, can include shortness of breath, dizziness, tiredness, chest pain and heart palpitations. The classic sign of atrial fibrillation is an extremely rapid heartbeat and can also include the same symptoms of mitral valve prolapse (or can produce no symptoms at all).

Always take your cardiac health to heart. If, like Evelyn Rawls, something just doesn’t seem right, get it checked out. Rawls, who works as a teacher’s assistant in the Chester Upland School District, is glad that she did. “I’m doing wonderful now,” she says. “In August, I will begin my studies at Harcum College toward an Associate’s degree in early childhood education. I continue to sing in my choir and spend time with my husband, Francois, and our four sons. I’ve lost weight and feel great.” As for her Crozer-Keystone heart team, Rawls says, “I trust them. Whatever they tell me, I’m going to do. I give Dr. Geller, Dr. Kleinman, Dr. Godfrey and the staff at Crozer-Chester Medical Center all the thanks in the world. I just love all of them.”

Crozer-Keystone is a longtime leader in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with cardiac disease. For more information about its cardiovascular programs, visit Call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) to find a cardiologist or cardiovascular surgeon who’s right for you.

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