Exercise capacity was assessed by means of a simple six minute walking test in a group of 18 patients with heart block whose only presenting symptom was breathlessness. None was in overt cardiac failure. Patients were studied before and after implantation of a transvenous, ventricular, demand pacing system (study group). Eight patients with an implanted pacemaker admitted for elective generator replacement were assessed in the same manner (control group). Exercise capacity in the study group was significantly increased within 48 hours of pacing, and this improvement was maintained in most patients during the follow up period of up to 30 months. In contrast, exercise capacity was unaffected by generator replacement in the control group. Simple ventricular pacing produces symptomatic benefit in patients with heart block accompanied by breathlessness. This benefit is apparent within 48 hours of pacing and is maintained; it can be assessed objectively by a six minute walking test.
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