Mitral or tricuspid regurgitation of long duration may so shorten the ventricular filling time in dilated cardiomyopathy that stroke volume is limited. We assessed the effects of changing the atrioventricular interval during temporary or permanent dual-chamber DDD pacing in twelve dilated cardiomyopathy patients with short ventricular filling times due to regurgitation. We measured ventricular filling time and cardiac output with doppler echocardiography and exercise capacity on a treadmill, at baseline and with the best atrioventricular delay during pacing. The durations of both mitral and tricuspid regurgitation were significantly shorter at the shorter atrioventricular interval (mean reductions 85 [95% CI 60-110] ms and 110 [75-150] ms, respectively; p < 0.001 for both). There were consequent increases in left-ventricular and right-ventricular filling times (65 [35-95] ms and 90 [60-120] ms, p < 0.001). For each 50 ms reduction in atrioventricular delay, left-ventricular filling time increased by 35 ms in six subjects with presystolic mitral regurgitation and right-ventricular filling time by 30 ms in nine subjects with presystolic tricuspid regurgitation. At the short atrioventricular interval, cardiac output was greater than baseline (by 1.1 [0.8-1.4] l/min, p < 0.01) and there were rises in exercise duration (104 [45-165] s, p < 0.05) and maximum oxygen consumption (2.1 [1.5-2.7] ml kg-1 min-1, p < 0.05). There was a decrease in the Likert visual analogue score of breathlessness at peak exercise (8.6 [SD 2.1] vs 4.9 [3.1], p < 0.01). Although from a small sample, these findings suggest that DDD pacing with a short atrioventricular delay may have therapeutic potential in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy, even in the absence of conventional indications for pacemaker implantation.