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Open Heart. 2015 Sep 10;2(1):e000257. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2015-000257. eCollection 2015.

Atrioesophageal fistula following ablation procedures for atrial fibrillation: systematic review of case reports.

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Division of Cardiology , St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Mount Sinai Healthcare System , New York, New York , USA.
University of Miami Hospital, University of Miami , Miami, Florida , USA.



Atrioesophageal fistula (AEF) is a rare but serious adverse event of atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation.


To identify the clinical characteristics of AEF following ablation procedures for AF and determine the associated mortality.


A systematic review of observational cases of AEF following ablation procedures for AF was performed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement protocol.


53 cases were identified. Mean age was 54±13 years; 73% (39/53) of cases occurred in males. Mean interval between procedure and presentation was 20±12 days, ranging from 2 to 60 days. AEF was observed in 12 patients who underwent surgical radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and in 41 patients with percutaneous RFA. Fever was the most common presenting symptom (n=44) followed by neurological deficits (n=27) and haematemesis (n=19). CT of the chest (n=27) was the preferred diagnostic test. Patients who did not receive a primary esophageal repair were more likely to have a deadly outcome (34% vs 83%; p<0.05). No difference in mortality rate was found between patients who underwent surgical RFA when compared with percutaneous RFA (58% vs 56%; p=0.579). No association was found between onset of symptoms and mortality (19±10 vs 23±14 days; p=0.355).


AEF following ablation procedures for AF is a serious complication with high mortality rates. Presenting symptoms most often include a triad of fever, neurological deficit and/or haematemesis within 60 days of procedure. The preferred diagnostic test is CT of the chest. The treatments of choice is surgical repair.



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