RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Time relation between a syncopal event and documentation of atrioventricular block in patients with bifascicular block: clinical implications.

BACKGROUND: Transient high-degree atrioventricular (AV) block is a common cause of syncope in patients with bifascicular block (BFB) but the intermittent nature of AV block makes ECG documentation a challenge. A sensitive and safe tool to investigate BFB patients with syncope would be a bradycardia-detecting pacemaker, which provides a possibility of studying the time relation between the index syncopal episode and the development of high-degree AV block.

METHODS: Twenty-seven patients with BFB and syncope were studied prospectively. All patients received a single-chamber ventricular-based pacemaker with bradycardia-detecting ability. A bradycardia episode was defined as a heart rate of < 30 beats/min lasting > or = 6 s.

RESULTS: During a median follow-up of 60 months, a bradycardia event was detected in 14 patients (52%), of whom 13 also had documented high-degree AV block on ECG. The median time between the syncopal episode and the first pacemaker-detected bradycardia event was 5 months and after an additional median time of 6 months, high-degree AV block was documented on the ECG. In 10 of 13 patients (77%) high-degree AV block was documented within 24 months of the syncopal episode corresponding to an annual incidence of 19% during the first 2 years of follow-up in the study population.

CONCLUSION: In this group of BFB patients a syncopal episode was highly predictive of the development of high-degree AV block within 24 months, justifying pacemaker therapy without prior ECG verification.

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