Importance: Patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) with a pacemaker may benefit from a higher, more physiologic backup heart rate than the nominal 60 beats per minute (bpm) setting.
Objective: To assess the effects of a moderately accelerated personalized backup heart rate compared with 60 bpm (usual care) in patients with preexisting pacemaker systems that limit pacemaker-mediated dyssynchrony.
Design, setting, and participants: This blinded randomized clinical trial enrolled patients with stage B and C HFpEF from the University of Vermont Medical Center pacemaker clinic between June 2019 and November 2020. Analysis was modified intention to treat.
Interventions: Participants were randomly assigned to personalized accelerated pacing or usual care and were followed up for 1 year. The personalized accelerated pacing heart rate was calculated using a resting heart rate algorithm based on height and modified by ejection fraction.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was the serial change in Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire (MLHFQ) score. Secondary end points were changes in N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) levels, pacemaker-detected physical activity, atrial fibrillation from baseline, and adverse clinical events.
Results: Overall, 107 participants were randomly assigned to the personalized accelerated pacing (n = 50) or usual care (n = 57) groups. The median (IQR) age was 75 (69-81) years, and 48 (48%) were female. Over 1-year follow-up, the median (IQR) pacemaker-detected heart rate was 75 (75-80) bpm in the personalized accelerated pacing arm and 65 (63-68) bpm in usual care. MLHFQ scores improved in the personalized accelerated pacing group (median [IQR] baseline MLHFQ score, 26 [8-45]; at 1 month, 15 [2-25]; at 1 year, 9 [4-21]; P < .001) and worsened with usual care (median [IQR] baseline MLHFQ score, 19 [6-42]; at 1 month, 23 [5-39]; at 1 year, 27 [7-52]; P = .03). In addition, personalized accelerated pacing led to improved changes in NT-proBNP levels (mean [SD] decrease of 109  pg/dL vs increase of 128  pg/dL with usual care; P = .02), activity levels (mean [SD], +47  minutes per day vs -22  minutes per day with usual care; P < .001), and device-detected atrial fibrillation (27% relative risk reduction compared with usual care; P = .04) over 1-year of follow-up. Adverse clinical events occurred in 4 patients in the personalized accelerated pacing group and 11 patients in usual care.
Conclusions and relevance: In this study, among patients with HFpEF and pacemakers, treatment with a moderately accelerated, personalized pacing rate was safe and improved quality of life, NT-proBNP levels, physical activity, and atrial fibrillation compared with the usual 60 bpm setting.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04721314.