Measurement of the sinus node recovery time has been proposed as a diagnostic tool for recognition of the sick sinus syndrome. The latter is most frequently encountered in elderly patients with hypertension, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerosis. In order to provide normal values for the sinus node recovery time in this particular population group, atrial pacing studies were carried out in 30 subjects over 50 years of age, all with peripheral vascular disease and some with angina pectoris (10), residua of infarction (6), or hypertension (7). On stimulation, 7 patients maintained a I:I atrioventricular conduction up to the rate of 180/min. Second degree atrioventricular block developed in all other cases. On six occasions, Wenckebach's periods appeared at the relatively slow pacing rate of 120/min. The maximum postoverdrive pause ranged from 680 to 1600 ms with an average of 1100 ms plus or minus 190 (10). For each pacing speed, a correlation was found between the duration of the pause and the control intrinsic cardiac rate, longer pauses being associated with longer resting PP intervals. Beyond 120/min, the duration of the pause was seen to shorten progressively as the driving rate was increased. Finally, the behavior of the sinus node pacemaker following interruption of pacing showed individual variations. After pacing at relatively slow rates, a prompt return to near control values was consistently observed, whereas, after fast rates of driving, a phase of secondary depression developed in about one-half of the studied cases.
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