Reel syndrome, a diagnostic conundrum: a case report
Pacemaker lead dislodgement and failure, related to device manipulation, is a rare complication of permanent pacemaker (PPM) insertion. Reel’s, Twiddler’s, and Ratchet syndrome are rare causes of pacemaker failure with varying mechanisms, defined by their classical lead and generator findings on chest X-ray imaging. Misleading patient presentations may be attributed to lead stimulation of surrounding structures.

A 77-year-old female was admitted with abdominal wall pulsations, abdominal pain, and lower limb jerking 3 months following PPM insertion. Following exclusion of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, the presence of Reel syndrome was noted on the patient’s chest X-ray and the electrocardiogram showed inappropriate pacing. Deactivation of the pacemaker resulted in immediate symptom cessation and urgent repositioning of pacemaker leads was undertaken.

This case highlights the importance of considering pacemaker complications causing non-cardiac symptomatology. Pacemaker lead stimulation of surrounding structures can present in an unconventional fashion, veiling the diagnosis. However, a structured approach to undifferentiated neuromuscular presentations in patients with PPMs should consider lead dislodgement as a differential diagnosis. Rapid recognition of lead dislodgement, device deactivation, and re-implantation or repositioning of the leads are critical in preventing potentially life-threatening complications.

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