To verify that atrioventricular (AV) synchronous pacing (DDD) with short AV delay improves the condition of patients with severe congestive heart failure, we implanted DDD pacemakers in 10 patients with severe heart failure (New York Heart Association [NYHA] class III to IV). One day after pacemaker implantation, the AV delay was optimized by Doppler echocardiographic measurements over the aortic outflow tract. Patients were evaluated regarding NYHA class, stroke volume, cardiac output, ejection fraction, and quality of life at 1, 3, and 6 months after pacemaker implantation. Although the optimized AV delay was associated with short-term improvement in stroke volume and cardiac output (baseline stroke volume = 22 +/- 7 ml, day 1 = 28 +/- 12 ml; p = 0.03: baseline cardiac output = 1.9 +/- 0.6 L/min, day 1 = 2.2 +/- 1.1 L/min; p = 0.10), the mean stroke volume, cardiac output, NYHA class, and ejection fraction did not change significantly after 1, 3, and 6 months of pacing compared with baseline values. Three patients improved in NYHA class during the follow-up. A consistent improvement in stroke volume, cardiac output, NYHA class, and ejection fraction was observed in only 1 patient. In conclusion, we found no beneficial effects of AV-synchronous pacing with optimized AV delay in patients with severe heart failure.