Open Access Research article

Limiting esophageal temperature in radiofrequency ablation of left atrial tachyarrhythmias results in low incidence of thermal esophageal lesions

Armin Sause14*, Osman Tutdibi14, Karsten Pomsel14, Wilfried Dinh14, Reiner Füth14, Mark Lankisch14, Thomas Glosemeyer-Allhoff3, Jan Janssen24 and Micheal Müller14

Author Affiliations

1 HELIOS Klinikum Wuppertal, Department of Cardiology, Arrenberger Str. 20, 42117 Wuppertal, Germany

2 HELIOS Klinikum Wuppertal, Department of Gastroenterology, Heusenerstr. 40, 42283 Wuppertal, Germany

3 St. Martinus-Hospital, Department of Gastroenterology, Hospitalweg 6, 57462 Olpe, Germany

4 University Witten/Herdecke gGmbH, Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50, 58448 Witten, Germany

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2010, 10:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-10-52

Published: 26 October 2010



Atrio-esophageal fistula formation following radiofrequency ablation of left atrial tachyarrhythmias is a rare but devastating complication. Esophageal injuries are believed to be precursors of fistula formation and reported to occur in up to 47% of patients. This study investigates the incidence of esophageal lesions when real time esophageal temperature monitoring and temperature limitation is used.


184 consecutive patients underwent open irrigated radiofrequency ablation of left atrial tachyarrhythmias. An esophageal temperature probe consisting of three independent thermocouples was used for temperature monitoring. A temperature limit of 40°C was defined to interrupt energy delivery. All patients underwent esophageal endoscopy the next day.


Endoscopy revealed ulcer formation in 3/184 patients (1.6%). No patient developed atrio-esophageal fistula. Patient and disease characteristics had no influence on ulcer formation. The temperature threshold of 40°C was reached in 157/184 patients. A temperature overshoot after cessation of energy delivery was observed frequently. The mean maximal temperature was 40.8°C. Using a multiple regression analysis creating a box lesion that implies superior- and inferior lines at the posterior wall connecting the right and left encircling was an independent predictor of temperature. Six month follow-up showed an overall success rate of 78% documented as sinus rhythm in seven-day holter ECG.


Limitation of esophageal temperature to 40°C is associated with the lowest incidence of esophageal lesion formation published so far. This approach may contribute to increase the safety profile of radiofrequency ablation in the left atrium.