Objectives: The aim of the study was to determine whether cardiac pacing reduces falls in older adults with cardioinhibitory carotid sinus hypersensitivity (CSH).
Background: Cardioinhibitory carotid sinus syndrome causes syncope, and symptoms respond to cardiac pacing. There is circumstantial evidence for an association between falls and the syndrome.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was done of consecutive older patients (>50 years) attending an accident and emergency facility because of a non-accidental fall. Patients were randomized to dual-chamber pacemaker implant (paced patients) or standard treatment (controls). The primary outcome was the number of falls during one year of follow-up.
Results: One hundred seventy-five eligible patients (mean age 73 +/- 10 years; 60% women) were randomized to the trial: pacemaker 87; controls 88. Falls (without loss of consciousness) were reduced by two-thirds: controls reported 669 falls (mean 9.3; range 0 to 89), and paced patients 216 falls (mean 4.1; range 0 to 29). Thus, paced patients were significantly less likely to fall (odds ratio 0.42; 95% confidence interval: 0.23, 0.75) than were controls. Syncopal events were also reduced during the follow-up period, but there were much fewer syncopal events than falls-28 episodes in paced patients and 47 in controls. Injurious events were reduced by 70% (202 in controls compared to 61 in paced patients).
Conclusions: There is a strong association between non-accidental falls and cardioinhibitory CSH. These patients would not usually be referred for cardiovascular assessment. Carotid sinus hypersensitivity should be considered in all older adults who have non-accidental falls.