OBJECTIVE--To compare symptoms and exercise tolerance during dual chamber universal (DDD) and ventricular rate response (VVIR) pacing in elderly (> or = 75) patients. DESIGN--Randomised, double blind, crossover study. SETTING--Regional cardiac department. PATIENTS--Twenty elderly patients (mean age 80.5 (1) years) with high grade atrioventricular block and sinus rhythm. Patients with pre-existing risk factors for the pacemaker syndrome and chronotropic incompetence were excluded. INTERVENTION--After four weeks of VVI pacing following pacemaker implantation, patients underwent consecutive two week periods of VVIR and DDD pacing. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Patient preference, symptom scores, "daily activity exercises," and perceived level of exercise (Borg score). RESULTS--Eleven patients preferred DDD mode to either VVI or VVIR mode. Mean (SE) total symptom scores during VVI, VVIR, and DDD pacing were 5.9 (1.1), 6.1 (1.0), and 3.5 (0.9) respectively (P < 0.01). The corresponding mean (SE) pacemaker syndrome symptom scores were 4.8 (0.7), 5.2 (0.8), and 2.9 (0.8) (P < 0.05). Symptom scores during VVI and VVIR pacing were not significantly different. Exercise performance and Borg scores were significantly worse during VVI pacing compared with VVIR or DDD pacing but did not significantly differ between VVIR and DDD modes. CONCLUSIONS--In active elderly patients with complete heart block both DDD and VVIR pacing are associated with improved exercise performance compared with fixed rate VVI pacing. The convenience and reduced cost of VVIR systems, however, may be offset by a higher incidence of the pacemaker syndrome. In elderly patients with complete heart block VVIR pacing results in suboptimal symptomatic benefit and should not be used instead of DDD pacing.
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