Atrial Esophageal Fistula Secondary to Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation: A Case Series and Review of the Literature

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This article describes 2 patients who presented to our institution with left atrial esophageal fistula after atrial fibrillation ablation; it also compares our experience with other atrial esophageal fistula cases reported in the literature. We performed a retrospective review of 2 patients who presented to our hospital between July 2015 and September 2015 with atrial esophageal fistula. Patient A, a 57-year-old man, presented 31 days postablation with a fever and right-sided weakness. A chest computed tomography showed gas in the left atrium and esophagus; an echocardiogram confirmed the diagnosis of atrial esophageal fistula. The patient subsequently underwent a left thoracotomy. Postoperative recovery was poor and included significant coagulopathy, sepsis, cardiogenic shock, and multisystem organ failure. The patient died on postoperative day 28. Patient B, a 77-year-old man, presented 21 days post–atrial fibrillation ablation with left-arm weakness and altered mental status. An esophagram was performed and showed no evidence of an esophageal perforation. Because of positive cultures and worsening altered mental status, the patient underwent a head computed tomography, which showed pneumocephalus, leading to our suspicion of the atrial esophageal fistula. A follow-up chest computed tomography confirmed the atrial esophageal fistula. Treatment included an esophagectomy and repair of the atrium. Unfortunately, the atrial esophageal fistula closure dehisced, and the patient developed acute respiratory failure and cardiac tamponade, which led to cardiopulmonary arrest, and the patient died on postoperative day 10. Based on our experience, and the literature, we recommend that a chest computed tomography be immediately performed on patients presenting with the described symptoms after a recent atrial fibrillation ablation.

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