First-degree AV block-an entirely benign finding or a potentially curable cause of cardiac disease?

Fredrik Holmqvist, James P Daubert
Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology 2013, 18 (3): 215-24
First-degree atrioventricular (AV) block is a delay within the AV conduction system and is defined as a prolongation of the PR interval beyond the upper limit of what is considered normal (generally 0.20 s). Up until recently, first-degree AV block was considered an entirely benign condition. In fact, some complain that it is a misnomer since there is only delay and no actual block in the AV conduction system (usually within the AV node). However, it has long been acknowledged that extreme forms of first-degree AV block (typically a PR interval exceeding 0.30 s) can cause symptoms due to inadequate timing of atrial and ventricular contractions, similar to the so-called pacemaker syndrome. Consequently, the current guidelines state that permanent pacemaker implantation is reasonable for first-degree AV block with symptoms similar to those of pacemaker syndrome or with hemodynamic compromise, but also stresses that there is little evidence to suggest that pacemakers improve survival in patients with isolated first-degree AV block. Recent reports suggest that it may be time to revisit the impact of first-degree AV block. Also, several findings in post hoc analyses of randomized device trials give important insights in possible treatment options. The present review aims to provide an update on the current knowledge concerning the impact of first-degree AV block and also to address the issue of pacing in patients with this condition.

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