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Atrial Flutter

There are many types of abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, and atrial flutter is a common type of arrhythmia.

Atrial flutter involves the upper chambers of your heart (the atria), rather than the lower chambers (the ventricles). With atrial flutter, your atria beat more quickly than they should. This usually isn’t life-threatening, but it does make it difficult for your heart to pump blood efficiently, which may lead to a number of complications including stroke.

What are the symptoms of atrial flutter?

Some people with atrial flutter feel no symptoms while others experience any of the following.

  • A noticeable fast, steady pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Difficulty with normal activities or exercise
  • A feeling that your heart is pounding or fluttering (commonly known as heart palpitations)
  • Tightness, pain, or pressure in your chest

Over time, atrial flutter also weakens your heart muscle and can eventually contribute to heart failure. Atrial flutter can gradually become atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia.

Although not immediately life-threatening, complications of atrial flutter can be serious if left untreated. See your doctor if you notice any of the possible signs and symptoms of atrial flutter.

What causes atrial flutter?

Anyone can develop atrial flutter, but some situations put you at greater risk. If you’ve had a past heart problem, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or congestive heart failure, you’re more likely to develop atrial flutter. If you have diabetes, lung disease, or thyroid disease, you may also be at higher risk. In addition, alcoholism or recent surgery, especially on the heart, can lead to the development of atrial flutter.

How do I know if I have atrial flutter?

An abnormal heartbeat can be easy for a physician to identify, sometimes just by listening to your pulse. Usually, your doctor may order a test to confirm your diagnosis, called an electrocardiogram

How is atrial flutter treated?

You and your doctor at MoBap will together decide how you want to treat your atrial flutter depending on the severity of your condition and your risk for complications.

Medications are available to help control your irregular heart rate. Your doctor may recommend blood thinners or rate-control medications that slow down your heart rate.

A procedure called catheter ablation is another treatment option. Your doctor will feed a series of catheters (thin, flexible wires) into your body and use pulses of energy to destroy problem areas of the heart that might be causing the atrial flutter. This very safe procedure is often successful in stopping the arrhythmia.

Can I prevent atrial flutter?

Atrial flutter cannot be directly prevented, but the diseases that lead to atrial flutter may be preventable, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent these diseases. Consider a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and don’t smoke.

Atrial flutter is directly tied to alcoholism. Drink only in moderation. If you have an alcohol abuse problem, please call us for help at 996-DOCS.

For more information on arrhythmia or to schedule an appointment, call us at 314-996-9627 or contact us online.


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