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      Esophageal cancer presenting with atrial fibrillation: A case report

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          Atrial fibrillation was previously reported in patients with esophageal cancer as a complication of total esophagectomy or photodynamic therapy. Here, we propose that atrial fibrillation may also be caused by external compression of the left atrium by esophageal cancer.

          Case presentation

          We present a 58-year-old man who developed atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular rate in the emergency room while being evaluated for dysphagia and weight loss. Atrial fibrillation lasted less than 12 hours and did not recur. Echocardiogram did not reveal any structural heart disease. A 10-cm, ulcerated mid-esophageal mass was seen during esophagogastroscopy. Microscopic examination showed squamous cell carcinoma. Computed tomography of the chest revealed esophageal thickening compressing the left atrium.


          External compression of the left atrium was previously reported to provoke atrial fibrillation. Similarly, esophageal cancer may precipitate atrial fibrillation by mechanical compression of the left atrium or pulmonary veins, triggering ectopic beats in susceptible patients.

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          Most cited references 12

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          Epidemiologic features of chronic atrial fibrillation: the Framingham study.

          In the Framingham Study 2325 men and 2866 women 30 to 62 years old at entry were followed biennially over 22 years for the development of chronic atrial fibrillation in relation to antecedent cardiovascular disease and risk factors. During surveillance, atrial fibrillation developed in 49 men and 49 women. The incidence rose sharply with age but did not differ significantly between the sexes. Overall, there was a 2.0 per cent chance that the disorder would develop in two decades. Atrial fibrillation usually followed the development of overt cardiovascular disease. Only 18 men and 12 women (31 per cent) had chronic atrial fibrillation in the absence of cardiovascular disease. Cardiac failure and rheumatic heart disease were the most powerful predictive precursors, with relative risks in excess of sixfold. Hypertensive cardiovascular disease was the most common antecedent disease, largely because of its frequency in the general population. Among the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and electrocardiographic evidence of left ventricular hypertrophy were related to the occurrence of atrial fibrillation. The development of chronic atrial fibrillation was associated with a doubling of overall mortality and of mortality from cardiovascular disease.
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            Initiation of atrial fibrillation by ectopic beats originating from the pulmonary veins: electrophysiological characteristics, pharmacological responses, and effects of radiofrequency ablation.

            Atrial fibrillation (AF) can be initiated by ectopic beats originating from the atrial or great venous tissues. This study investigated the anatomic characteristics and electrophysiological properties of pulmonary veins (PVs), as well as the possible mechanisms and response to drugs of ectopic foci, and assessed the effects of radiofrequency (RF) ablation on AF initiated by ectopic beats originating from PVs. Seventy-nine patients with frequent episodes of paroxysmal AF and 10 control patients were included. Distal PVs showed the shortest effective refractory periods (ERPs), and right superior PVs showed a higher incidence of intra-PV conduction block than left superior PVs. Superior and left PVs had longer myocardial sleeves than inferior and right PVs, respectively. These electrophysiological characteristics were similar between AF and control patients. Propranolol, verapamil, and procainamide suppressed ectopic beats that originated from the PVs. Of 116 ectopic foci that initiated AF, 103 (88.8%) originated from PVs. A mean of 7+/-3 RF applications completely eliminated 110 ectopic foci (94.8%). During the 6+/-2-month follow-up period, 68 patients (86. 1%) were free of AF without any antiarrhythmic drugs. Follow-up transesophageal echocardiogram showed 42.4% of ablated PVs had focal stenosis. One patient had mild exertional dyspnea after ablation, but it resolved 3 months later; 1 patient had onset of mild exertional dyspnea 5 months after ablation. Electrophysiological characteristics of PVs are different from those in the atria. Ectopic beats from PVs can initiate AF, and beta-adrenergic receptor blocker, calcium channel blockers, and sodium channel blockers can suppress these ectopic beats. Careful mapping and elimination of these ectopic foci can cure paroxysmal AF.
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              Curative treatment of atrial fibrillation with intraoperative radiofrequency ablation: short-term and midterm results.

              This report describes the early and midterm results after intraoperative radiofrequency ablation of atrial fibrillation for patients with isolated chronic atrial fibrillation or atrial fibrillation in combination with additional valvular and nonvalvular cardiac diseases. From August 1998 to March 2001, a total of 234 patients with chronic atrial fibrillation underwent isolated intraoperative radiofrequency ablation alone (n = 74, 31.6%) or in combination with other cardiac procedures, such as mitral valve reconstruction (n = 57, 24.4%), mitral valve replacement (n = 38, 16.2%), aortic valve replacement (n = 11, 5.1%), coronary artery bypass grafting (n = 8, 5.0%), or a combination of the last with other cardiac procedures (n = 46, 19.7%). In all cases anatomic reentrant circuits confined within the left atrium were eliminated by placing contiguous lesion lines involving the mitral anulus and the orifices of the pulmonary veins through the use of radiofrequency energy application (exposure time, 20 seconds). A median sternotomy was used in 101 cases (43.2%), and video assistance through a right lateral minithoracotomy was used in 133 cases (56.8%). A total of 188 patients (83.9%) were discharged in sinus rhythm, 17 patients (7.6%) had atrial fibrillation, and 19 patients (8.5%) had atypical flutter. Pacemakers were implanted in 23 patients (9.8%). There were 10 in-hospital deaths (4.2%), and 30-day mortality was 5 patients (2.1%). In 3 cases (1.3%) an atrioesophageal fistula developed, necessitating surgical repair. Six months' follow-up was complete for 122 (61.0%) of 200 patients, with 99 patients still in stable sinus rhythm (81.1%, 95% confidence interval 73.1%-89.9%). Twelve months' follow-up was complete for 80 (90.9%) of 88 patients, with 58 patients still in sinus rhythm (72.5%, 95% confidence interval 61.3%-83.2%). Intraoperative radiofrequency ablation is a curative procedure for chronic atrial fibrillation. It is technically less challenging than the maze procedure and can be applied through a minimally invasive approach. Protection of the esophagus seems mandatory to avoid the deleterious complication of a left atrioesophageal fistula, such as was observed in 3 cases.

                Author and article information

                J Med Case Reports
                Journal of Medical Case Reports
                BioMed Central
                8 September 2008
                : 2
                : 292
                [1 ]Division of Hematology and Oncology, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1475 NW 12th Ave, St# 3400 (D8-4), Miami, FL 33136, USA
                [2 ]Division of Cardiology, Interfaith Medical Center, 1545 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213, USA
                [3 ]Department of Surgery, Interfaith Medical Center, 1545 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213, USA
                [4 ]Division of Gastroenterology, Interfaith Medical Center, 1545 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213, USA
                Copyright © 2008 Bayraktar et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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