On the basis of the known electrophysiologic mechanisms of atrial fibrillation, multiple surgical procedures were designed and tested in dogs to determine the feasibility of developing a surgical cure for human atrial fibrillation. These experimental studies culminated in a surgical approach that effectively creates an electrical maze in the atrium. The atrial incisions prevent atrial reentry and allow sinus impulses to activate the entire atrial myocardium, thereby preserving atrial transport function postoperatively. Since September 1987, this surgical procedure has been applied in seven patients, five with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation of 2 to 9 years' duration and two with chronic atrial fibrillation of 3 and 10 years' duration. All seven patients have been cured of atrial fibrillation and none is receiving any postoperative antiarrhythmic medications.