Introduction: Results of previous studies suggest that atrial resynchronization by multisite atrial pacing may contribute to prevention of recurrences in patients with drug-refractory atrial tachyarrhythmias and significant intra-atrial conduction delay.
Methods and results: To verify this hypothesis, a prospective noncontrolled study of 86 patients (mean age 66 +/- 10 years) was conducted in a single center between January 1989 and February 1998. Inclusion criteria were P wave duration > or = 120 msec with interatrial conduction time > or = 100 msec, and history of multiple recurrences of atrial tachyarrhythmias (mean 7 +/- 4.8 episodes) evolving in a persistent mode for at least 6 months despite optimized drug treatment (mean 2.7 +/- 1.8 drugs/patient). Patients were chronically implanted with a pacing system that ensured permanent biatrial pacing using two atrial leads, one placed in the high right atrium and the other one into the mid or the distal part of the coronary sinus. P wave duration decreased from a mean value of 187 +/- 29 msec before implant to 106 +/- 14 msec (P < 0.0001) under biatrial pacing. After a 33-month mean follow-up (range 6 to 109), 55 patients (64%) remained in sinus rhythm, including 28 patients (32.6%) without any documented recurrence and 27 patients with one or more recurrences in a paroxysmal or in a persistent form. In these 55 patients, drug treatment was significantly reduced in relation to the preimplantation period (1.4 +/- 0.6 vs 1.7 +/- 0.5 drugs/patient; P = 0.011). The other 31 patients went into chronic atrial arrhythmia after a mean period of 26 months. The only predictive factor of positive response was a spontaneous P wave duration < 160 msec at baseline.
Conclusion: The results are consistent with a preventive effect of permanent biatrial pacing on recurrent and drug-refractory atrial arrhythmias associated with intra-atrial conduction delay.