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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001 Nov 1;38(5):1491-6.

Carotid sinus syndrome: a modifiable risk factor for nonaccidental falls in older adults (SAFE PACE).

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  • 1Cardiovascular Investigation Unit, Royal Victoria Infirmary/MRC Development Centre for Clinical Brain Ageing, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom.



The aim of the study was to determine whether cardiac pacing reduces falls in older adults with cardioinhibitory carotid sinus hypersensitivity (CSH).


Cardioinhibitory carotid sinus syndrome causes syncope, and symptoms respond to cardiac pacing. There is circumstantial evidence for an association between falls and the syndrome.


A randomized controlled trial was done of consecutive older patients (>50 years) attending an accident and emergency facility because of a non-accidental fall. Patients were randomized to dual-chamber pacemaker implant (paced patients) or standard treatment (controls). The primary outcome was the number of falls during one year of follow-up.


One hundred seventy-five eligible patients (mean age 73 +/- 10 years; 60% women) were randomized to the trial: pacemaker 87; controls 88. Falls (without loss of consciousness) were reduced by two-thirds: controls reported 669 falls (mean 9.3; range 0 to 89), and paced patients 216 falls (mean 4.1; range 0 to 29). Thus, paced patients were significantly less likely to fall (odds ratio 0.42; 95% confidence interval: 0.23, 0.75) than were controls. Syncopal events were also reduced during the follow-up period, but there were much fewer syncopal events than falls-28 episodes in paced patients and 47 in controls. Injurious events were reduced by 70% (202 in controls compared to 61 in paced patients).


There is a strong association between non-accidental falls and cardioinhibitory CSH. These patients would not usually be referred for cardiovascular assessment. Carotid sinus hypersensitivity should be considered in all older adults who have non-accidental falls.

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