Esophageal injury associated with catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation: Determinants of risk and protective strategies

Fabrizio R. Assis, Rushil Shah, Bharat Narasimhan, Sravya Ambadipudi, Hrithika Bhambhani, John N. Catanzaro, Hugh Calkins, Harikrishna Tandri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Catheter ablation has become an important element in the management of atrial fibrillation. Several technical advances allowed for better safety profiles and lower recurrence rates, leading to an increasing number of ablations worldwide. Despite that, major complications are still reported, and esophageal thermal injury remains a significant concern as atrioesophageal fistula (AEF) is often fatal. Recognition of the mechanisms involved in the process of esophageal lesion formation and the identification of the main determinants of risk have set the grounds for the development and improvement of different esophageal protective strategies. More sensitive esophageal temperature monitoring, safer ablation parameters and catheters, and different energy sources appear to collectively reduce the risk of esophageal thermal injury. Adjunctive measures such as the prophylactic use of proton-pump inhibitors, as well as esophageal cooling or deviation devices, have emerged as complementary methods with variable but promising results. Nevertheless, as a multifactorial problem, no single esophageal protective measure has proven to be sufficiently effective to eliminate the risk, and further investigation is still warranted. Early screening in the patients at risk and prompt intervention in the cases of AEF are important risk modifiers and yield better outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1364-1376
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • atrial fibrillation
  • atrioesophageal fistula
  • catheter ablation
  • esophageal cooling
  • esophageal lesion
  • esophageal protection
  • esophageal thermal damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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