The effect of esophageal cooling on esophageal injury during radiofrequency catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation.

Jinu John
Lohit Garg
Molly Orosey
Tusar Desai
David E. Haines, Beaumont Health
Wai Shun Wong


INTRODUCTION: Catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation (AF) may lead to collateral damage to the esophagus. We tested the hypothesis that luminal esophageal temperature (LET)-guided esophageal cooling might reduce the incidence of esophageal thermal lesions (ETL).

METHODS: Seventy-six patients from August 2015 to March 2017 with paroxysmal or persistent AF underwent a first-time catheter ablation procedure with or without LET-guided active esophageal cooling through an orogastric tube placed in the esophagus. Esophageal cooling occurred if and only if LET exceeded 0.5 °C from baseline while ablating the LA posterior wall. All patients underwent esophagogastric endoscopy the next day.

RESULTS: Of the 76 patients studied, 38 (50%) patients underwent esophageal cooling. Baseline characteristics of the non-cooled and cooled groups were comparable. Of these, 59% of patients had ETL. There was a non-significant trend for more severe lesions (grades 3, 4) in the non-cooled group (29% vs. 13.5%, p = 0.10). Average power delivered on the left atrial posterior wall (27 ± 1.8 W vs. 27 ± 3.8 W, p = 0.34) and average force of contact (10.1 g vs. 9.8 g, p = 0.38) were similar in both groups while more time was spent ablating on the posterior wall in the non-cooled group (24.6 ± 7.3 min vs. 20.4 ± 5.9 min, p = 0.014). In a multivariate analysis, esophageal cooling had no significant effect on the esophageal lesion grade post-ablation.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of ETL in patients undergoing left atrial posterior wall isolation is substantial. Our method of esophageal cooling did not decrease the incidence of ETL. There was a non-significant trend toward fewer severe lesions with cooling, but one cannot conclude the value of cooling from this pilot study.