Stiff left atrial syndrome with pulmonary veins occlusion after percutaneous radiofrequency ablation: a life-long complication that can lead to heart transplantation

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BACKGROUND: Stiff left atrial syndrome (SLAS) and pulmonary vein (PV) occlusion are rare yet potentially major life-long complications after radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation. While mostly controlled by medical management, SLAS can progress to refractory congestive heart failure. Treatment of PV stenosis and occlusion remains a challenging problem with ongoing risk for recurrence regardless of techniques employed. Herein we present the case of a now 51-year-old male with acquired PV occlusion and SLAS who, over the course of eleven years, despite multiple interventions, ultimately required heart transplantation.

CASE PRESENTATION: After undergoing three radiofrequency catheter procedures for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), a hybrid ablation was planned due to reappearance of symptomatic AF. Preoperative echocardiography and chest computed tomography (CT) revealed an occlusion of both left PVs. Furthermore, left atrial dysfunction, high pulmonary artery and pulmonary wedge pressures were diagnosed as well as an important reduction of the left atrial volume. The diagnosis of stiff left atrial syndrome was made. Primary surgical repair of the left-sided PVs was performed using a pericardial patch as a tubular neo-vein, combined with cryoablation in the left and right atrium to treat the patient's arrhythmia. Initial results were favorable, however, after two years the patient experienced progressive restenosis with hemoptysis. Therefore, stenting of the common left PV was performed. Over the years, progressive right heart failure with severe tricuspid regurgitation developed, despite maximal medical therapy, which led to the need for heart transplantation.

CONCLUSION: The impact of PV occlusion and SLAS after percutaneous radiofrequency ablation can be lifelong and devastating for the clinical course of the patient. Since the presence of a small left atrium could be an important predictor for SLAS in case of redo ablation, preprocedural imaging should guide the operator to an algorithm of a decision-making containing lesion set, energy source, and safety of re-ablation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number181
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Male
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Veins/surgery
  • Atrial Fibrillation/diagnosis
  • Catheter Ablation/adverse effects
  • Heart Atria/surgery
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease/surgery
  • Heart Transplantation/adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


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