Atrial Flutter Overview

Atrial flutter is a common heart rhythm disorder. In atrial flutter, an abnormal electrical circuit spins in the right atrium, completely disrupting and speeding up the normal rhythm. Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation. However, the atrial rhythm is more organized and less chaotic in atrial flutter than in atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, you may have periods of both atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. Under these conditions, the heart contracts in a disordered manner and does not pump blood efficiently. This results in palpitations, shortness of breath or severe fatigue. This rhythm disorder is easily diagnosed on an electrocardiogram or ECG.

In atrial flutter, the atrium does not contract properly, causing pooling of blood in this cavity.  This pooling can cause clot formation that can travel into the arteries of the brain and cause a stroke and brain damage.

In treating atrial flutter, it is most important to prevent a stroke and to stop abnormal electrical activity.
Conventional anticoagulants such as vitamin K antagonists or, more recently, direct oral anticoagulants thin the blood and prevent clot formation. Alternatively, atrial flutter radiofrequency ablation can cure this arrhythmia. The procedure typically lasts about half an hour, uses local anesthesia and mild sedation, and often requires an outpatient hospital stay. A small puncture in a vein in the groin allows the catheter to access the heart.
The catheter is equipped with an electrode which scars the electrical pathways contributing to atrial flutter, and the heart returns to its normal function. This procedure can let the patient discontinue medications after 4 to 6 weeks.

Atrial flutter is a common disorder which can be serious if under treated. Many treatments are possible and effective. Ask your doctor or your cardiologist for details.


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