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2017 AF Symposium

Movin’ it: Protecting the Esophagus During Ablation

Live case presenters: Drs. Rodney Horton, Amin Al-Ahmad and David Burkhardt from the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, TX. Moderator: Dr. Andrea Natale.

Patient background: A 79-year-old female needed a ‘re-do’ second ablation. She had persistent A-Fib and hypertension. Her first ablation was August 15, 2016 where they couldn’t terminate her Flutter. Because the temperature probe in her esophagus showed a rise in temperature when they tried to ablate certain areas, “we were not as aggressive as we would have liked.”

The Danger: Esophageal Fistula

During an ablation, doctors take great precautions to not heat or injure the esophagus which lies behind the posterior wall of the left atrium. Injuring the esophagus can, in very rare cases, cause an atrial esophageal fistula which can be fatal.

Fear of causing esophageal injury can cause the EP to modify the ablation lesion set delivery, thereby reducing ablation success by:

1. Reducing the wattage or amount of energy delivered to the left atrium wall which causes less complete scarring; and/or

2. Relocating the ablation lesion to a less desirable area

For this patient: During her first ablation: the doctors noticed a rise in temperature of the probe inserted in her esophagus, so her doctors stopped ablating in that area. Consequently, the A-Fib signal source(s) in that area were not isolated effectively. Result: her A-Flutter was not terminated.

Solution: Esophageal Displacement Tool

The esophagus is not a rigid, inflexible pipe but rather like a hose made out of flexible muscle fibers. It can naturally migrate side-to-side 2-3 cm on its own.

For this live streaming ablation, a new esophagus displacement tool was used: the EsoSure Esophageal Retractor. The tool allows doctors to re-position a section of the esophagus away from the nearby heart tissue and avoid the heat generated during ablation.

The inventor of the device, Steven W. Miller, RN and EP nurse, demonstrated his device to me at the AF Symposium Exhibit Hall.

EsoSure Esophageal Retractor: Shape adjusts to body temperature at

EsoSure Esophageal Retractor: Shape adjusts to body temperature

At room temperature, the stylet is fairly straight which allows it to be easily inserted into a commonly used gastric tube which is routinely placed down the esophagus by the anesthesia staff. But as the stylet warms to body temperature, it takes on a greater curve. He inserted the stylet into warmed water. You could see how the stylet changed shape and developed a greater curve.

Depending on how the stylet is positioned, it can displace the esophagus up to 2-3 cm to the left or right depending on each person’s anatomy.

Using the EsoSure Retractor, the EP can easily and safely move the esophagus away from any area being ablated. It is FDA approved and has been used by different practitioners more than 700 times without damaging the esophagus.

Live Case Using the EsoSure Retractor

In this re-do ablation, the 79-year-old female patient was in A-Fib when the ablation started. They cardioverted her, but she went right back into A-Fib.

Entrainment (pacing) mapping was used to identify non-PV triggers. Since they had to ablate in the posterior of the left atrium next to the esophagus, they simply moved the EsoSure Retractor up and down to displace the esophagus. It seemed very easy to do.

The EPs mentioned that, with the use of this displacement device, they could now ablate at a higher wattage without fear of harming the esophagus. They also ablated the Left Atrial Appendage area to restore her to sinus rhythm.

What Patients Need to Know

Displacing the esophagus is a major medical advance: The EsoSure Esophageal Retractor is a major medical advance that will significantly improve not only the safety but the effectiveness of catheter ablations. Compared to any other gear in the ablation lab, the EsoSure Retractor is inexpensive ($365-$395 depending on quantity ordered). Any EP lab can and should use it, (or something similar).

Esophagus injury: All too often the esophagus lies behind the right pulmonary vein openings. Doctors have to limit both the placement and the power of their lesions out of fear of damaging the esophagus.

But being able to move the esophagus solves this problem. Ablations will be more effective, and the danger of producing an Atrial Esophageal Fistula (while rare) will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated. It will also reduce ablation procedure time.

Ask your EP: If you are scheduling an ablation, ask your doctors about their plan to prevent esophageal injury.

Return to 2017 AF Symposium Reports
If you find any errors on this page, email us. Last updated: Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reference for this Article
• Elsheshtawy, M. et al. The Esophagus and Atrial Fibrillation Ablation: Anatomical Considerations and Practices. EP Lab Digest. January, 2017.

• Natale, A. et al. Safety and Efficacy of the Use of an Esophageal Retractor to Prevent Thermal Injuries During Atrial Fibrillation Ablation: A Multi-Center Experience. AF Symposium poster, 2017.

• EsoSure website:

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