Modern pacemakers usually have multiple functions. The most basic form monitors the heart’s native electrical rhythm. When the pacemaker fails to sense a heartbeat within a normal beat-to-beat time period, it will stimulate the ventricle of the heart with a short low voltage pulse. This sensing and stimulating activity continues on a beat by beat basis.
The more complex forms include the ability to sense and/or stimulate both the atrial and ventricular chambers.
I II III IV V
Chamber(s) paced Chamber(s) sensed Response to sensing Rate modulation Multisite pacing
O = None O = None O = None O = None O = None
A = Atrium A = Atrium T = Triggered R = Rate modulation A = Atrium
V = Ventricle V = Ventricle I = Inhibited V = Ventricle
D = Dual (A+V) D = Dual (A+V) D = Dual (T+I) D = Dual (A+V)
From this the basic ventricular “on demand” pacing mode is VVI or with automatic rate adjustment for exercise VVIR – this mode is suitable when no synchronization with the atrial beat is required, as in atrial fibrillation. The equivalent atrial pacing mode is AAI or AAIR which is the mode of choice when atrioventricular conduction is intact but the natural pacemaker the sinoatrial node is unreliable – sinus node disease (SND) or sick sinus syndrome. Where the problem is atrioventricular block (AVB) the pacemaker is required to detect (sense) the atrial beat and after a normal delay (0.1-0.2 seconds) trigger a ventricular beat, unless it has already happened – this is VDD mode and can be achieved with a single pacing lead with electrodes in the right atrium (to sense) and ventricle (to sense and pace). These modes AAIR and VDD are unusual in the US but widely used in Latin America and Europe. The DDDR mode is most commonly used as it covers all the options though the pacemakers require separate atrial and ventricular leads and are more complex, requiring careful programming of their functions for