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Atrial Flutter

Atrial Flutter 

Atrial flutter is a type of abnormal heartbeat, or arrhythmia. Normally, the heart’s atria (upper chambers) and ventricles (lower chambers) work together to pump blood to the rest of the body—first the atria contract and force blood into the ventricles, and then the ventricles contract and force blood out of the heart. But with atrial flutter, problems with the heart’s electrical system cause the atria to beat faster and more frequently than the ventricles.  Many people use the terms atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation (AFib) interchangeably, believing that they’re the same condition. That’s actually not the case. With atrial fibrillation, the atria beat is irregular. But with atrial flutter, the atria beat regularly—they simply beat faster than the ventricles. Many individuals have both of these conditions. 

Causes of Atrial Flutter 

There are various risk factors that can increase the chances of developing atrial flutter, including: 

  • Being over age 50 
  • Having previously undergone catheter ablation to treat atrial fibrillation 
  • Having previously undergone cardiac surgery 

Symptoms of Atrial Flutter 

Although atrial flutter doesn’t always produce noticeable symptoms, many individuals with this condition experience: 

  • Heart palpitations (a fluttering sensation within the chest) 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fainting 

If you think that you might have atrial flutter, it’s important to seek professional medical advice, since this condition can lead to cardiomyopathy and increase your risk of stroke if left untreated. 

Diagnosing Atrial Flutter 

Physicians often use electrocardiograms (EKGs) to diagnose atrial flutter. If there’s still a question as to what is causing a patient’s symptoms, a physician may direct him or her to undergo an electrophysiological study or wear an event monitor for a certain amount of time. 

Treatment for Atrial Flutter 

In some cases, atrial flutter will resolve on its own without the need for treatment. When this doesn’t happen, physicians at Tampa General Hospital will often treat atrial flutter using catheter ablation, which involves using radiofrequency energy to restore a normal heart rhythm. In many cases, physicians will also prescribe medication to control the patient’s heart rhythm and prevent the formation of blood clots.