Atrio-esophageal fistula after AF ablation: Pathophysiology, prevention & treatment

Carlo Pappone, Gabriele Vicedomini, Vincenzo Santinelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atrioesophageal fistula is an extremely rare but often fatal late complication of atrial fibrillation ablation procedures resulting from massive thermal injury to the esophagus and surrounding structures. Causes of death include cerebral air embolism, massive gastrointestinal bleeding, and septic shock. Because of its exceptionally low rate of occurrence, no predictors of lesion development have been found and there has not been an uniform approach to either early diagnosis or corrective therapy. Currently, preventive strategies include empirically reducing power titration during PVI and/or while ablating the posterior left atrial wall, limiting energy delivery time and number, avoiding overlapping ablation lines as well as monitoring intraluminal esophageal temperature. In addition, it has been suggested to use conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia for better pain perception, monitoring intraprocedural esophageal position in relation to the posterior left atrium and extensive patient education regarding signs and symptoms of esophageal injury. Early diagnosis is essential to enable an aggressive treatment including stenting and/or surgical intervention to minimize the excessive morbidity and mortality associated with this condition. Unfortunately, despite application of such preventive measures, cases of complete atrial-esophageal fistula have still been reported.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-107
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Atrial Fibrillation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Atrio-esophageal fistula
  • Cathteter ablation
  • Death
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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