Diagnosis of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in patients with implanted pacemakers: relationship to symptoms and other variables

Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2009 Jan;32(1):91-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8159.2009.02181.x.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is not always accompanied by clear-cut symptoms and symptoms suggestive of AF may not correspond to a genuine AF episode. The study prospectively evaluated the burden of asymptomatic AF episodes in pacemaker patients (for sick sinus syndrome) with a history of documented paroxysmal AF.

Methods: Consecutive patients were enrolled and implanted with dual-chamber pacemakers equipped with diagnostic features for AF monitoring. Each patient was instructed about typical AF symptoms and was asked to keep a detailed log of symptoms. Stored pacemaker data were analyzed using only AF episodes >30 s.

Results: The mean follow-up was 16 +/- 6 months and 102 patients were enrolled (73 +/- 7 years, 59 M). Thirteen patients (13%) dropped out with the development of permanent AF and their data were discarded. Twenty-three patients (26%) without device-stored AF episodes all reported at least one annotated AF episode. There were 1,245 device-stored AF episodes in 66 (74%) out of 89 patients. Patients reported 1,141 episodes of AF-related symptoms. Only 240 (21%) corresponded to a genuine device-stored AF event. The sensitivity and positive predictive value of symptoms to detect AF were respectively 19% and 21%. Episode duration, rate increase at the onset of the arrhythmia, heart disease, or antiarrhythmic drug therapy showed no statistically significant differences comparing symptomatic and asymptomatic episodes.

Conclusions: Many pacemaker patients with paroxysmal AF can develop AF-like symptoms in the absence of device-stored AF. AF-related symptoms have low sensitivity and low positive predictive value in patients with permanent pacemakers.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / prevention & control*
  • Electrocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Pacemaker, Artificial / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors