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Atrial Flutter

Facts about atrial flutter

  • 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 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).

What are the signs and symptoms of atrial flutter?

Some people have no symptoms with atrial flutter. Others describe the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations (a rapid heartbeat or a pounding sensation in the chest)
  • A fluttering feeling in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Weakness

People with underlying heart or lung disease who experience atrial flutter may have these symptoms as well as the following more significant symptoms:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/13/2016
Medical Author:

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