Ventricular pacemaker upgrade: experience, complications and recommendations

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Abstract

Objective

To assess outcomes of pacemaker upgrade from single chamber ventricular to dual chamber.

Design

Retrospective analysis of patients undergoing the procedure.

Setting

Specialist cardiothoracic unit.

Patients

44 patients (15 female, 29 male), mean (SD) age at upgrade 68.2 (12.9) years.

Interventions

Upgrade of single chamber ventricular to dual chamber pacemaker.

Main outcome measures

Procedure duration and complications.

Results

Principal indications for upgrade were pacemaker syndrome (17), "opportunistic"-that is, at elective generator replacement (8), heart failure (7), non-specific breathlessness/fatigue (7), and neurally mediated syncope (3). Mean (SD) upgrade procedure duration (82.9 (32.6) minutes) significantly exceeded mean VVI implantation duration (42.9 (13.3) minutes) and mean DDD implantation duration (56.6 (22.7) minutes) (both p < 0.01). Complications included pneumothorax (1), ventricular arrhythmia requiring cardioversion (2), protracted procedure (10), atrial lead repositioning within six weeks (8), haematoma evacuation (1), superficial infection (1), and admission to hospital with chest pain (1); 20 patients (45%) suffered one or more complications including four of the eight who underwent opportunistic upgrade.

Conclusions

Pacemaker upgrade takes longer and has a higher complication rate than either single or dual chamber pacemaker implantation. This suggests that the procedure should be performed by an experienced operator, and should be undertaken only if a firm indication exists. Patients with atrial activity should not be offered single chamber ventricular systems in the belief that the unit can be upgraded later if necessary at minimal risk.

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