Spontaneous esophageal rupture is caused by violent vomiting and retching, Arens said. In other words, the man's reaction to the ghost pepper, rather than the pepper itself, caused the rupture, Arens said.
The condition is very dangerous, and is fatal in 20 to 40 percent of all cases, even when patients receive treatment, the report said. "If [the condition is] left untreated, mortality approaches 100 percent," the authors wrote.
When patients die from a ruptured esophagus, the cause of death is likely a "rapid and fatal infection," Arens told Live Science.
The man was sent home from the hospital 23 days after the operation, the report said. His feeding tube was still in place when he was sent home, but Arens said the tube was only temporary, until the esophagus healed. She said she believes the man is currently doing well.
When Arens spoke to the man after the surgery, he "did not seem keen to try [eating a ghost pepper] again," she said.
Arens noted that she was not the primary doctor in the ER who was caring for the patient; rather, she was contacted by the doctors treating the man, because they wanted to know if there were any "antidotes" for hot peppers, she said.