OBJECTIVE--To assess the effect of right atrial appendage pacing on atrial electromechanical interrelations in patients with DDD pacemakers. DESIGN--Prospective study by M mode echocardiogram, Doppler echocardiogram, and apexcardiogram, along with electrocardiogram and phonocardiogram. SETTING--Tertiary cardiac referral centre. PATIENTS--20 patients with DDD pacemakers and 20 age matched normal controls. RESULTS--Age, RR interval, atrial size, left ventricular size, and fractional shortening were similar in the two groups. Atrial electromechanical delay (the time from the onset of P wave or atrial pacing spike on ECG to the onset of atrial contraction on M mode echogram) was 68 (SD 7) ms at the lateral site of right atrium, 82 (9) ms at the central fibrous body, 93 (11) ms at the lateral site of left atrium in normals. In patients with DDD pacing, however, this delay increased to 85 (22) ms, 117 (23) ms, and 138 (25) ms respectively (all P < 0.01). Interatrial mechanical delay (the time from the onset of right atrial motion to the onset of the left) increased from 25 (6) ms in normal controls to 53 (18) ms in patients (P < 0.01). Intra-atrial mechanical dispersion (the time from the earliest to the latest onset of regional atrial motion around the atrioventricular ring) in the right atrium increased from 6 (2) ms in normals to 19 (2) ms in patients (P < 0.01), but it remained unchanged in the left atrium (6 (2) ms in normal controls v 7 (2) ms in patients, P > 0.05). Peak atrial shortening rate was not different between the two groups. Differences of atrial electromechanical activity between the two groups were also reflected on Doppler echocardiogram and apexcardiogram. CONCLUSIONS--Right atrial appendage pacing disturbs the normal coordinate sequence of right atrial mechanical activity and leads to a striking and variable increase in intra-atrial conduction time as well as in interatrial conduction time. Left atrial contraction remains synchronous although the timing of the start of its contraction was delayed. These values can be determined in individual patients to allow optimal setting of DDD pacemakers.