JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Isolated congenital complete atrioventricular block in adult life. A prospective study.

Circulation 1995 August 2
BACKGROUND: The prognosis of congenital complete atrioventricular block (CCHB) is usually considered favorable in adults. This belief is based on studies comprising a limited number of patients and with rather short observation times. In the present study, the natural history of the disease was investigated by a prospective follow-up through decades of adult life of patients with a large group having well-defined CCHB without structural heart disease.

METHODS AND RESULTS: The diagnostic criteria of CCHB proposed by Yater were applied. Patients registered as having CCHB in 1964, supplemented by younger patients all without symptoms during their first 15 years of life, were selected. The study was limited to patients with isolated, complete, permanent block. An interview was conducted with all patients and clinical follow-up data obtained. There were finally 102 patients, 61 women and 41 men. In November 1994, the time of observation, after the age of 15 years in survivors, was between 7 and 30 years. The mean age at follow-up or at death was 38 years, median age 37 years, and range 16 to 66 years. Stokes-Adams (SA) attacks occurred in 27 patients, in 8 with a fatal outcome. The first attack was fatal in 6 of these 8 patients. Nineteen survived and a pacemaker (PM) was implanted thereafter. Another 8 patients received a PM because of repeated fainting spells, and 27 others have had a PM implanted for other reasons such as fatigue, effort dyspnea, dizziness, ectopies during exercise tests, mitral regurgitation, and a low ventricular rate (VR). VR decreased with age, with a mean rate at 15 years of 46 beats per minute (bpm), at 16 to 20 years of 43 bpm, at 21 to 30 years of 41 bpm, at 31 to 40 years of 40 bpm, and after 40 years of age of 39 bpm. SA attacks occurred in all 7 patients with prolonged QTc time. Low VR at rest or at work, presence of bundle-branch block pattern, low working capacity, and ectopies at rest and/or during effort were not statistically significant risk factors. SA attacks occurred in 6 patients without any of these signs. Mitral regurgitation developed in 16 patients and 4 died. A PM reduced the risk of death. A change to a lower degree of block occurred in 6 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Prophylactic PM treatment is recommended even for symptom-free adults with CCHB because of the high incidence of unpredictable SA attacks with considerable mortality from first attacks, a gradually decreasing VR, significant morbidity, and a high incidence of "acquired" mitral insufficiency.

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