Atrial Flutter

1 What is Atrial Flutter?

Atrial flutter is a common type of arrhythmia in which the atrial chamber contracts rapidly.

The increased contraction of atria causes fast, regular heartbeats.

The muscle contractions of the atria are not in synchrony with the contractions of ventricle. It is caused by the formation of an abnormal conduction circuit in the atria.

Fast beat of the heart may affect the amount of blood pumped by the heart. As a result of this, brain and heart muscles may not get enough blood and lead to their failure.

Atrial flutter may result in stroke, congestive heart failure, and heart attack

2 Symptoms

Atrial flutter may not cause symptoms in some people.

When present, it includes

3 Causes

Atrial flutter can be caused by lifestyle choices, and other external factors such as open heart surgery.

The natural pacemaker present in the right atrium, called sinus node, plays an important role in maintaining a normal heart rhythm.

The electrical signals sent from this node passes to the muscles of both right and left atrium and triggers a contraction. In atrial flutter, a part of the signal travels in the form of a loop around the right atrium, causing rapid contractions of the chamber.

This causes the atria to beat faster than the ventricles. Normal heartbeat is 60-100 beats per minute, while in atrial flutter it is around 250-300 beats per minute.

Many factors are involved in the development of atrial flutter including

Major risk factors for atrial flutter are

  • Smoking
  • Heart diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Lung diseases
  • Heart valve abnormalities
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Certain medications

4 Making a Diagnosis

Review of family history, medical history, and symptoms helps in the diagnosis of Atrial flutter.

Heartbeat rate more than 100 beats per minute even when the person is at rest is a main indicator of atrial flutter.

Confirmation is based on:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This procedure helps to record the electrical activity of the heart

Echocardiogram (EEG)

Measures the flow of blood through heart and blood vessels.

Electrophysiology studies

In this method, a small catheter is inserted into the blood vessel and guided to the heart. Once in place, electrodes are placed in the heart to monitor the heart rhythm.

5 Treatment

Treatment of Atrial flutter focuses on:

  • controlling heartrate,
  • restoring the normal rhythm,
  • prevent future occurrence,
  • to prevent complications.

The rhythm of heart can be restored to normal through cardioversion. Cardioversion is done through electrical method or by using medications.

In electrical cardioversion, an electrical shock is delivered to the heart which stops the discharges for a short duration. When the heart regains function, it usually restores the default normal rhythm in most of the people. This procedure is usually done under sedation.

Anti-arrhythmic medications are used to restore the normal heart rhythm. These medications may be administered orally or intravenously, usually with continuous monitoring of heartbeat.

Blood thinners are recommended to reduce the chance of blood clots. Digoxin, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers reduce the symptoms of the atrial flutter.

Catheter ablation is a procedure in which the hotspots in the heart that produces rapid, abnormal electrical discharges, are removed using radiofrequency, heat, or cryotherapy. In catheter ablation, a catheter is inserted into the blood vessel and guided to the heart. Ablation of hotspots corrects the abnormal rhythm without use of medications or any devices.

6 Prevention

Taking steps to reduce the risk of heart diseases help to prevent chances of atrial fibrillation.

This includes having a

  • heart-healthy diet,
  • quitting smoking,
  • being physically active,
  • maintaining a healthy body weight.

Those who have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation should try to keep cholesterol and triglycerides at healthy levels.

Limiting alcohol consumption, and controlling blood sugar levels are also important. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for controlling symptoms of Atrial flutter.

Practicing yoga is considered to be good for improving

  • quality of life,
  • reducing depression,
  • preventing anxiety.

Relaxing breath exercises are being tried to reduce the effect of stress on heart.

Protein-rich diet with good amount of magnesium and potassium are supposed to be good in controlling arrhythmia.

Specific supplements are also an option for controlling symptoms of atrial flutter.  

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle changes are important in improving heart health and coping with Atrial flutter.

  • Regular exercise,
  • having heart-healthy food,
  • not smoking,
  • maintaining a healthy body weight,
  • keeping cholesterol levels under check

help in controlling symptoms of this condition.

While living with this condition, ensure to keep all medical appointments and do carry the medication list.

Be consistent with medications as prescribed.

Be cautious about

  • nutritional supplements,
  • over-the-counter medications,
  • normal allergy medications

as they may have drug interactions.

Talk to your doctor about the side effects of medications. Join a support group to discuss and exchange experiences of coping with the condition. 

9 Risk and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with Atrial flutter.

Atrial flutter may result in heart failure due to impaired functioning of the heart.

also occur as complications of this condition.