Chronic constrictive pericarditis is a frequent cause of diastolic dysfunction, and results in impaired ventricular filling. Unlike in normal subjects, ventricular filling in constrictive pericarditis occurs almost entirely in the initial one third of diastole, and cardiac output is dependent predominantly on heart rate. Tachycardia impairs ventricular filling in normal subjects, but its effects in patients with constrictive pericarditis have not been studied. The effect of increasing heart rate alone with atrial pacing on the central and peripheral hemodynamics of patients with untreated chronic constrictive pericarditis before and after pericardiectomy was evaluated. Increased heart rate with atrial pacing increased cardiac output, whereas stroke volume remained unchanged up to heart rates of 140 beats/min. Further increases in heart rate resulted in reductions of cardiac output and stroke volume. There were no significant changes in ventricular filling pressures. Infusion of 300 ml of saline solution at peak pacing rates did not improve cardiac output. After successful surgical pericardiectomy, the hemodynamic effects of atrial pacing returned to normal. It is concluded that moderate tachycardia improves the hemodynamic profile of patients with constrictive pericarditis.
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