In the setting of acute myocardial infarction, prolongation of the QRS interval on electrocardiography identifies patients at risk for needing permanent pacemaker implantation. However, the implications of prolonged QRS intervals in healthy subjects are unclear, especially given that the QRS prolongation encountered in this setting is typically mild. The aim of this study was to assess the relation between QRS duration and incident pacemaker implantation in a community-based cohort of 8,311 subjects (mean age 54 years, 55% women) who attended 17,731 routine examinations with resting 12-lead electrocardiography. QRS duration was analyzed as a continuous and a categorical variable (<100, 100 to <120, and > or =120 ms). During up to 35 years of follow-up, 157 participants (56 women) developed need for permanent pacemakers. In multivariable Cox regression models adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors and previous myocardial infarction or heart failure, mild QRS prolongation was associated with a threefold risk for pacemaker implantation (adjusted hazard ratio 2.90, 95% confidence interval 1.81 to 4.66, p <0.0001), and bundle branch block was associated with a fourfold risk for pacemaker implantation (hazard ratio 4.43, 95% confidence interval 2.94 to 6.68, p <0.0001). Each standard deviation increment in QRS duration (11 ms) was associated with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.14 (95% confidence interval 1.11 to 1.18, p <0.0001) for pacemaker placement. This association remained significant after excluding subjects with QRS durations > or =120 ms. In conclusion, subjects with prolonged QRS durations, even without bundle branch block, are at increased risk for future pacemaker implantation. Such individuals may warrant monitoring for progressive conduction disease.
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