Objective Heart failure and left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) are common in patients with permanent pacemakers, but whether right ventricular (RV) pacing is contributory or merely a bystander in patients with more severe cardiac disease is controversial. The aim of the present study was to determine whether reprogramming of existing pacemakers to reduce RV pacing is safe and leads to improvements in cardiac function.
Methods This was a prospective service evaluation of the effects of optimising pacemaker programming to avoid RV pacing in 66 consecutive attendees of a teaching hospital pacemaker clinic without complete heart block. The main outcome measures were left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-pro-BNP) levels, quality of life and cardiopulmonary exercise testing at baseline and after 6 months.
Results At 6 months, the protocol reduced absolute RV pacing by a mean of 49% (95% CI 41% to 57%) (p<0.0001 from baseline) and resulted in a mean absolute improvement in LVEF of 6% (4% to 8%) (p<0.0001 from baseline) but no reduction in exercise capacity, NT-pro-BNP or quality of life. There was a relationship between the magnitude of change in EF and the reduction in RV pacing (p=0.04) and changes in NT-pro-BNP seemed to relate to change in RV pacing (p=0.07).
Conclusions Programming standard pacemakers to avoid RV pacing is safe, does not adversely affect patients’ symptoms or quality of life and is associated with improved LV function, related to the reductions in RV pacing percentage.
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