Objectives: The purpose of this study was to provide a systematic multicenter survey on the incidence and causes of death occurring in the setting of or as a consequence of catheter ablation (CA) of atrial fibrillation (AF).
Background: CA of AF is considered to be generally safe. However, serious complications, including death, have been reported.
Methods: Using a retrospective case series, data relevant to the incidence and cause of intra- and post-procedural death occurring in patients undergoing CA of AF between 1995 and 2006 were collected from 162 of 546 identified centers worldwide.
Results: Thirty-two deaths (0.98 per 1,000 patients) were reported during 45,115 procedures in 32,569 patients. Causes of deaths included tamponade in 8 patients (1 later than 30 days), stroke in 5 patients (2 later than 30 days), atrioesophageal fistula in 5 patients, and massive pneumonia in 2 patients. Myocardial infarction, intractable torsades de pointes, septicemia, sudden respiratory arrest, extrapericardial pulmonary vein (PV) perforation, occlusion of both lateral PVs, hemothorax, and anaphylaxis were reported to be responsible for 1 death each, while asphyxia from tracheal compression secondary to subclavian hematoma, intracranial bleeding, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and esophageal perforation from an intraoperative transesophageal echocardiographic probe were causes of 1 late death each.
Conclusions: Death is a complication of CA of AF, occurring in 1 of 1,000 patients. Knowledge of possible precipitating causes is key to operators and needs to be considered during decision making with patients.