BACKGROUND: Health care consumption and costs for the treatment of atrial fibrillation are high. Atrial fibrillation is effectively treated by the surgical Maze III procedure according to the Cox method. We describe the effects of this procedure on health care consumption and economy. METHODS: From October 1997 through March 2002, 72 patients underwent the Maze III procedure. Medical records of these patients were reviewed, and all data regarding hospitalization and outpatient clinic visits for atrial fibrillation and its related diseases were recorded. Accounting divisions from the contributing hospitals were consulted for the exact cost of each of these services, which were allocated into preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative periods. RESULTS: The perioperative mortality was zero. Long-term freedom from symptomatic atrial fibrillation was verified in 96% of the patients. The number of hospitalization days decreased by 84%, from 471 during the preoperative period to 79 in the postoperative (p < 0.001), and costs during the same periods decreased by 75%, from 7,075,000 Swedish Kronor to 1,757,000 Swedish Kronor (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The Maze III procedure significantly decreased the postoperative hospitalization costs in patients undergoing surgery primarily for atrial fibrillation. As well as providing an effective treatment for symptomatic arrhythmia, this procedure breaks the undesirable trend of increasing health care consumption resulting from treatment of atrial fibrillation.