[Temporary pacemakers: current use and complications]

Rev Esp Cardiol. 2004 Nov;57(11):1045-52.
[Article in Spanish]


Introduction and objective: Temporary pacemakers (TP) are used in the emergency treatment of patients with severe bradyarrhythmia. They are often used in emergency situations and for older patients in poor general condition who are hemodynamically unstable and uncooperative. The aim of this study was to review and analyze the indications, incidence and type of complications associated with TP implanted in our center during a 6-year period.

Patients and method: We analyzed significant clinical variables, indication, route of insertion, follow-up, complications, and duration of temporary pacing.

Results: A total of 568 TP were implanted, and 530 cases were available for review (mean age 74.8 [11] years). The main indications were symptomatic complete AV block (51%), prophylaxis for replacement with a definitive pacemaker (14.7%), blockage in the acute phase of myocardial infarction (12.6%), bradyarrhythmia due to drug intoxication (12.2%), symptomatic sick sinus syndrome (7.5%) and long QT interval or ventricular tachycardia (2.5%). The route of insertion was via the femoral vein in 99% of the cases. The duration of TP use was 4.2 days (range 1 to 31 days). A total of 369 patients (69.6%) required a permanent pacemaker.

Complications: 34 patients died (6.4%), but only 3 deaths were attributable to TP implantation. Other severe complications were seen in 98 patients (18.5%). Malfunction of the TP occurred in 48 patients (9%) because of electrode displacement.

Conclusions: Temporary pacemakers are used in older patients with extreme bradyarrhythmia and occasionally with acute myocardial infarction. Serious complications are not uncommon (22% of all patients), and can range from femoral hematoma to cardiac tamponade and even death (6%). In 9% of the patients the electrode needed to be repositioned because of failure of sensing or loss of ventricular capture.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / mortality*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis
  • Coronary Disease / therapy
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pacemaker, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Pacemaker, Artificial / statistics & numerical data