What is atrial flutter?


Quick Answer

Atrial flutter, a common form of arrhythmia, is a type of abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Heart Rhythm Society. It is similar to atrial fibrillation in that they both result in rapid heartbeats that occur above the heart ventricles.

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What is atrial flutter?
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Full Answer

People with atrial flutter, or AFL, have hearts with atria that send signals that overload the heart's pacemaker, called the sinus node. The atria contract rapidly and the lower chambers, or ventricles, begin beating very quickly. People with AFL have hearts that beat 200 to 300 beats per minute, whereas a normal heartbeat is 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to Heathline. AFL makes the heart beat quickly but consistently. When seen on an electrocardiogram, AFL reveals a sawtooth-like pattern, adds the Heart Rhythm Society.

Coronary artery disease, open-heart surgery and stress can cause atrial flutter. Medical conditions such as heart failure, high blood pressure, a history of heart attacks and congenital defects increase the risk for developing atrial flutter, claims the Heart Rhythm Society. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fast heart rate and pressure in the chest. Echocardiograms, electrocardiograms and electrophysiology studies are used to diagnose AFL. Treatments such as prescription medications, heart ablations and defibrillation are implemented to try to restore the heart rhythm to normal, adds Healthline.

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