Atrial Flutter Overview
Atrial flutter is an abnormality of the heart rhythm, resulting in a rapid and sometimes irregular heartbeat. Such abnormalities, whether in the rate or regularity of the heartbeat, are known as arrhythmias.
The beating of the heart is controlled by electrical impulses.
Atrial flutter occurs when these electrical impulses take an abnormal path through the atria, typically circulating around the tricuspid valve in the right atrium.
The main danger of atrial flutter is that the heart does not pump blood well when it is beating too fast. When blood is not pumped well, vital organs, such as the heart and brain, may not get enough oxygen from the blood.
Atrial flutter can come and go; it is then known as paroxysmal atrial flutter. More often, atrial flutter lasts for days to weeks and is known as persistent atrial flutter.
With proper treatment, atrial flutter is rarely life- threatening. Complications of atrial flutter, in particular stroke, can be devastating, but they can be prevented with medications ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2015
Noel G Boyle, MB, BCh, MD, PhD
Theodore A Spevack, DO
Kathryn L Hale, MS, PA-C
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