Surgeon Q&A: Will A Mechanical Heart Valve Replacement Stop Atrial Fibrillation?

During the Heart Valve Summit, I received some great questions from our community. One of the questions from Leslie at our Facebook page was, “After several years of paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and a prolapsed mitral valve, I finally had my bad valve replaced by a mechanical mitral valve. Will this stop my AFib?”

To answer Leslie’s question, I was very fortunate to connect with Dr. John Johnkoski. So you know, Dr. Johnkoski is a cardiac surgeon and the Co-Director of the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at Aspirus in Wausau, Wisconsin.

I hope this video helped Leslie (and perhaps you) learn more about heart valve replacements and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Thanks to Leslie for her question. Also, many thanks to Dr. Johnkoski for sharing his clinical experience and research with our community!

Keep on tickin!

P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I provided a written transcript of my interview with Dr. Johnkoski bel0w.

Hi, everybody! It’s Adam with I am at the Heart Valve Summit in Chicago, Illinois. I’m thrilled to be with Dr. John Johnkoski who is a Heart Surgeon, and he’s also the co-Director of the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at Aspirus in Wausau, Wisconsin. Dr. Johnkoski, thanks for being with me today.

Dr. Johnkoski: Thanks for having me.

Adam: We’ve got questions coming in, Dr. Johnkoski, from our Facebook page. We have one that came in from Leslie. She has a great question, she says, “After several years of paroxysmal afib and a prolapse mitral valve, I finally had my bad valve replaced by a mechanical mitral valve. Will this stop my AFib?”

Dr. Johnkoski: Well it’s a great question, Adam. One of the major causes of atrial fibrillation is mitral valve leakage. Mitral valve leakage causes the left atrium to enlarge. That is one of the major causes of afib, so taking away that leaky valve may well resolve your atrial fibrillation.

One of the things that I noted here is that you’re on a blood thinner, so you are protected from a stroke even if you do continue to have afib. I’ll say it was a little bit of a missed opportunity when you had atrial fibrillation. When you went to the OR for your valve surgery that’s something that in a lot of practices would have been fixed; maybe not everywhere, but certainly in our practice that would always be fixed at the time of your mitral valve surgery.

Adam:  Great. Well Dr. Johnkoski, you hit on a point, the concept of a concomitant procedure for patients with valve disease and afib. Is this common that it’s getting treated at the same time?

Dr. Johnkoski: Well the good news is it’s getting more common. There’s a huge effort to go out there and educate heart surgeons in this country. In fact this weekend, we’re teaching a course with about 30 attendees in the Chicago area. To teach them the basic principles and all the ins and outs of doing a proper maze procedure for someone having heart surgery.

The bad news is we’re not there yet. We need to make this more prevalent. Like I said, this was a missed opportunity. There’s very, very good data that shows that adding a maze procedure to other heart procedures, whether it’s a valve or bypass or double valve and a bypass, unless someone’s really, really frail and old, we try very hard to do everything we can at the time, to correct atrial fibrillation at the time of the open-heart surgery.

Adam:  Great. Well Leslie, I hoped you. I know it helped me learn a lot. Dr. Johnkoski, I just want to thank you on behalf of our patient community for all the great work that you’re doing in Wausau. Thanks for stopping by and talking with us.

Dr. Johnkoski: Thank you.

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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