Atrial flutter refers to the abnormal beating of the heart, states WebMD. Such rhythmic or heartbeat speed abnormalities are called arrhythmia. An atrial flutter that comes and goes is known as paroxysmal atrial flutter, while that which is more or less permanent is called persistent atrial flutter.
An atrial flutter occurs when the electrical impulses that control the beating of the heart take an abnormal path through the right atrium, explains WebMD. The condition escalates the heartbeat rate to between 250 and 300 beats per minute. When the heart beats too fast, its normal ability to pump blood around the body is disabled. As a result, important organs, such as the brain and heart, fail to receive enough blood supply, which can lead to their failure. Other complications that can result include heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.
The causes of an atrial flutter can be heart abnormalities, heart diseases or body diseases that affect the heart, claims WebMD. The heart complications that can cause atrial flutter include a reduced flood floor to the heart, hypertension, cardiomyopathy and hypertrophy. Consumption of substances such as alcohol, cocaine, cold medicines and diet pills that affect the transmission of electrical impulses through the heart can also cause atrial flutter; however, an atrial flutter lacks underlying cause in some people.