Evaluation of Rate-Responsive Pacemakers by Transesophageal Holter Monitoring of Spontaneous Atrial Rate


  • Work partially funded by a grant of National Research Council of Italy on TBMS Specialized Program.

2 CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, Via P. Savi, 8, 56100 Pisa, Italy


BONGIORNI, M.G., ET AL.: Evaluation of Rate-Responsive Pacemakers by Transesophageal Holter Monitoring of Spontaneous Atrial Rate. One of the most important problems in rate responsive (RR) pacing is the clinical experimental evaluation of the reliability of various sensors. In particular, it is difficult to test their sensitivity and specificity during daily activity of the patients. Atrial rate, when present and normal, is the most physiological marker of metabolic requirements, but sometimes it is impossible to analyze the P wave in ventricular paced rhythm during routinely performed tests (e.g., ergometric test and 24-hour Holter monitoring). During various physical activities, we monitored atrial electrograms on an esophageal lead on the first channel of a standard Holter tape recorder; on the second channel a surface ECG lead was recorded. We selected 10 patients with high grade heart block and normal sinus node function paced in RR-VVI mode. RR pacing was obtained using various sensors (body activity, blood temperature, spike-T interval, minute ventilation). The good quality of recording allowed an easy evaluation of atrial and ventricular rates. In four cases an appropriate increase in heart rate was documented; sensitivity threshold and/or rate response slope were reprogrammed when indicated. The pacing rate of one patient did not parallel the atrial rate during walking only. In three cases, we observed a delay in the ventricular rate increase, with ventricular rate decreasing at peak exercise despite further atrial rate increase. In the last two patients, we observed inappropriate pacing response; pacing rate increased later and to a lower level than the atrial one. This new method is applied easily and appears reliable to evaluate the response of RR pacemakers to individual metabolic needs. Its applicability is, however, limited by the need for a normal sinus node function. In conclusion, transesophageal atrial rate recording is a useful tool for the clinical evaluation of RR pacemakers, and it can be proposed as a new method for testing new sensors.