Aims: We assessed the effects of cardiac re-synchronization therapy (CRT) in patients who developed otherwise unexplained heart failure (HF) during right ventricular apical (RVA)-pacing for acquired complete atrioventricular block (CAVB). Methods and results: Eighteen consecutive CAVB patients with HF during RVA-pacing were assessed with haemodynamic studies immediately and 12 months after CRT-upgrade. Ten patients had idiopathic CAVB and 13 showed normal left ventricular (LV) function at RVA-pacemaker implantation. HF developed after 81 ± 10 months. RVA-pacing duration correlated (r = 0.49, P < 0.05) with LV ejection fraction (LVEF) deterioration. Biventricular- (BiV) and LV-pacing acutely improved the systolic function comparably, but only BiV improved diastolic function. One-year post-CRT-initiation, New York Heart Association classification improved 35 ± 3% (P < 0.05) and the number of hospitalizations decreased 85 ± 3% (P < 0.0001). CRT decreased LV end-diastolic diameter (LVEDd) 7 ± 2% (P < 0.01) and increased LVEF by 23 ± 7% (P < 0.01). The CRT-induced reduction in LVEDd tended to be greater in patients with RVA-pacing for < 5 years vs. > 5 years (7.7 ± 2.5 vs. 3.6 ± 1.0 mm, P = 0.08). Conclusion: CRT-upgrade improves the cardiac function and symptoms in CAVB patients with HF progression related to RVA-pacing. Because adverse LV-remodelling may be partly irreversible, consideration should be given to BiV- and LV-pacing upgrade as soon as possible after the indications appear, and prospective studies of the optimal timing of CRT-upgrade may be useful. © The European Society of Cardiology 2007. All rights reserved.