Atrial flutter is a type of abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia. It is characterized by a fast heart rate and a reduction in cardiac output that leads to characteristic symptoms. Palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, and poor exercise tolerance are the most common symptoms. Other less common symptoms can include lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain. Blood clots may form in the heart (thrombi) that may break off and travel to other parts of the body (emboli), leading to complications. The reduction in cardiac output (decreased volume of blood pumped by the heart), when untreated, can have serious consequences, including congestive heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.
Causes of atrial flutter
Atrial flutter is caused by an abnormality in the electrical pacemaker in the heart atrium that causes an irregular heartbeat. The exact reason this occurs is poorly understood, but there are certain conditions that increase the risk of developing atrial flutter. Some of these risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, heart failure, coronary artery disease (coronary heart disease), atherosclerosis, aging, recent surgery, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, alcohol abuse and binge drinking, chronic lung disease (such as COPD and emphysema), and other serious illnesses. Heart diseases that damage the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) and abnormal enlargement of the heart (hypertrophy) can also increase the risk of atrial flutter.
Alcohol (wine, beer, or hard liquor) as well as stimulant drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, or cold medicines can lead to atrial flutter in susceptible people. Even caffeine may increase the risk.
Other atrial flutter symptoms and signs
- Chest Pain
- Fast Heart Rate
- Fluttering Feeling in the Chest
- Irregular Heart Rate
- Pressure in the Chest
- Reduced Ability to Exercise
- Shortness of Breath
- Tightness in the Chest
Main Article on Atrial Flutter Symptoms and Signs
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ
Learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the common heart abnormality known as atrial fibrillation (A-fib).
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib): Tips for Living with Atrial Fibrillation
Learn how to live easier with atrial fibrillation. What is AFib? Find out the symptoms and causes of this heart condition....
Atrial Fibrillation: Heart Symptoms, Diagnosis, & AFib Treatment
AFib symptoms like heart racing, fluttering, and irregular heart beat may be caused by heart disease, obesity, alcohol use,...
Examples of Medications for Atrial Flutter Symptoms and Signs
- amiodarone, Cordarone, Nextrone, Pacerone
- Brevibloc (esmolol hydrochloride) Injection
- diltiazem (Cardizem, Cardizem CD, Cardizem LA, Tiazac, Cartia XT, Diltzac, Dilt-CD, and several oth)
- dofetilide - oral, Tikosyn
- flecainide - oral, Tambocor
- propafenone (Rythmol)
- sotalol, Betapace, Betapace AF, Sorine, Sotylize
- Sotylize (sotalol hydrochloride)
- verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Verelan PM [Discontinued: Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Covera-HS])