flutter (AFL) is a type of abnormal heart rate, or arrhythmia. It occurs when
the upper chambers of your heart beat too fast. When the chambers in the top of
your heart (atria) beat faster than the bottom ones (ventricles), it complicates
your heart rhythm.
What Causes Atrial Flutter?
is controlled by a natural pacemaker (the sinus node), which is located in the
right atrium. It sends out electrical signals to both the right and left atria.
Those signals tell the top of the heart how and when to contract.
have AFL, the sinus node sends out the electrical signal but part of the signal
travels along a pathway in a circular motion or circuit around the right atrium,
in a continuous loop. This makes the atria contract rapidly, which causes the
atria to beat faster than the ventricles. A normal heart bate is 60 to 100
beats per minute (bpm). People with AFL have hearts that beat at 250 to 300 bpm.
can cause AFL.
Coronary Artery Disease
disease is a major cause of AFL. Coronary artery disease occurs when the
arteries of the heart become blocked by plaque. Cholesterol and fats that stick
to the artery walls cause plaque. This slows or prevents blood circulation. It
can damage the heart’s muscle, chambers, and blood vessels.
surgery may scar the heart. This can obstruct electrical signals.
raises your heart rate, and results in AFL. You can fix this problem by
reducing or eliminating stress.
Who Is at Risk for Atrial
for AFL include certain medications, existing conditions, and lifestyle
choices. People who are at risk for atrial flutter tend to:
high blood pressure
heart valve conditions
stress or anxiety problems
diet pills or certain other medications
What Are the Symptoms of
person with AFL isn’t able to feel the fluttering of their heart. Symptoms and
indicators often manifest in other ways. Not every person with AFL will have
all the symptoms of the condition, but some include:
lightheaded or faint
in the chest
of AFL are common in many other conditions. Having one or more of these
symptoms is not always a sign of AFL.
often last for days, or even weeks, at a time.
How Is Atrial Flutter
start to suspect AFL if your heartbeat at rest goes above 100 bpm.
history is important when your doctor is trying to diagnose AFL. A history of
heart disease, anxiety issues, and high blood pressure can all affect your
care doctor can diagnose AFL. You may also be referred to a cardiologist for
tests are used to diagnose and confirm AFL.
- Echocardiograms use ultrasound to measure
the flow of blood through your heart and blood vessels.
- Electrocardiograms record the electrical patterns of
- EP (electrophysiology) studies are a more invasive way to
record heart rhythm. A catheter is threaded from the arteries of your groin all
the way into your heart. Electrodes are then inserted to monitor heart rhythm
in different areas.
How Is Atrial Flutter
doctor’s main goal is to restore your heart rhythm to normal. Treatment depends
on how severe your condition is. Other underlying health problems can also
affect AFL treatment.
can be used to slow or regulate your heart rate. Certain medications may
require a brief hospital stay while your body adjusts.
thinners can be used to prevent clot formation in your arteries. Clotting can
cause a stroke or heart attack. People with AFL have an increased risk of blood
therapy is used when AFL can’t be controlled through medication. It destroys
the heart tissue that’s causing the abnormal rhythm. You may need a pacemaker
after this surgery to control your heartbeat.
can also be used without ablation.
uses electricity to shock the heart’s rhythm back to normal. It’s also called
defibrillation. Paddles or patches applied to the chest are used to induce the
What Can Be Expected in the
is often successful in treating AFL. However, the condition can sometimes
reoccur. You can reduce the risk of recurrence by reducing your stress and taking
your medications as prescribed.