Syncope in Patients with Pacemakers

Arrhythm Electrophysiol Rev. 2015 Dec;4(3):189-92. doi: 10.15420/aer.2015.4.3.189. Epub 2015 Dec 1.


Syncope in a pacemaker patient is a serious symptom but it is rarely due a pacemaker system malfunction. Syncope occurs in about 5 % of patients paced for atrioventricular (AV) block in 5 years, 18% in those paced for sinus node disease in 10 years, 20 % of those paced for carotid sinus syndrome in 5 years and 5-55 % of those older patients paced for vasovagal syncope in 2 years. The vastly different results in vasovagal syncope depend on the results of tilt testing, where those with negative tests approach results in pacing for AV block and those with a positive tilt test show no better results than with no pacemaker. The implication of tilt results is that a hypotensive tendency is clearly demonstrated by tilt positivity pointing to syncope recurrence with hypotension. This problem may be addressed by treatment with vasoconstrictor drugs in those who are suited or, more commonly, a reduction or cessation of hypotensive therapy in hypertensive patients. Other causes of syncope such as tachyarrhythmias are rare. The clinical approach to patients who report syncope is detailed.

Keywords: Syncope; atrioventricular block; carotid sinus syndrome; pacemaker; pacemaker malfunction; sinus node disease; tilt testing; vasovagal syncope.