Purpose of review: This review provides an update on the mechanisms, incidence, and current management of significant pulmonary vein stenosis following catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation.
Recent findings: Catheter ablation involving the pulmonary veins and the surrounding left atrial tissue is increasingly used to treat atrial fibrillation. In parallel with the fact that these procedures may cure a substantial proportion of patients, severe complications have been observed. Pulmonary vein stenosis is a new clinical entity produced by radiofrequency energy delivery mainly within or at the orifice of the pulmonary veins. The exact incidence is currently unknown because the diagnosis is dependent on the imaging modality and on the rigor with which patients are followed up. The optimal method for screening patients has not been determined. Stenosis of a pulmonary vein may be assessed by combining anatomic and functional imaging using computed tomographic or magnetic resonance imaging, transesophageal echocardiography, and lung scanning. Symptoms vary considerably and may be misdiagnosed, leading to severe clinical consequences. Current treatment strategies involve pulmonary vein dilatation or stenting; however, the restenosis rate remains high. The long-term outcome in patients with pulmonary vein stenosis is unclear. Strategies under development to prevent pulmonary vein stenosis include alternate energy sources and modified ablation techniques.
Summary: Pulmonary vein stenosis following catheter ablation is a new clinical entity that has been described in various reports recently. There is much uncertainty with respect to causative factors, incidence, diagnosis, and treatment, and long-term sequelae are unclear.