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Conventional and biventricular pacing in patients with first-degree atrioventricular block.

Recent reports suggest that first-degree atrioventricular block is not benign. However, there is no evidence that shortening of the PR interval can improve outcome except for symptomatic patients with a very long PR interval ≥0.3 s. Because these patients require continual forced pacing, biventricular pacing should be used according to accepted guidelines for third-degree AV block. Functional atrial undersensing may occur in patients with conventional dual-chamber pacing and first-degree AV block because the sinus P-wave tends to be displaced into the post-ventricular atrial refractory period (PVARP) an arrangement that may cause a pacemaker syndrome. Prevention requires programming a shorter AV and PVARP that is feasible because retrograde conduction is rare in first-degree AV block patients. A relatively new pacing mode to minimize right ventricular stimulation has been designed by eliminating the traditional AV interval but with dual-chamber backup. This pacing mode permits the establishment of very long AV intervals that may cause pacemaker syndrome. About 50% of patients undergoing cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) have a PR interval ≥200 ms. The CRT patients with first-degree AV block are prone to develop electrical desynchronization more easily than those with a normal PR interval. The duration of desynchronization after exceeding the upper rate on exercise is also more pronounced. AV junctional ablation is rarely necessary in patients with first-degree AV block but should be considered for symptomatic functional atrial undersensing or when the disturbances caused by first-degree AV block during CRT cannot be managed by programming.

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