This paper reviews the history of surgical procedures developed for eradication of atrial fibrillation (AF) during cardiac surgery for structural heart disease, and in patients with AF without other indication for cardiac surgery. Current evidence indicates that, despite their proven efficacy, the Cox-Maze procedure and its modifications require cardiopulmonary bypass and cannot be easily justified in the case of AF without other indication for cardiac surgery. In patients undergoing cardiac surgery for mitral valve disease, concomitant ablation techniques using modifications of the Maze and alternative energy sources appear to be safe and effective in treating AF, especially in non-rheumatic disease. Minimally invasive epicardial ablation has been recently developed and can be performed on a beating heart through small access incision ports. Various techniques combining pulmonary vein isolation, ganglionated plexi ablation, and left atrial lines have been tried. Initial results are promising but further clinical experience is required to establish ideal lesion sets, appropriate energy sources, and the benefit-risk ratio of such an approach in patients without other indication for cardiac surgery. The role of surgical ablation in the current management of AF is under investigation.