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.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
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
What is atrial fibrillation? Learn how to making living with atrial fibrillation (AFib) easier. Explore tips that can help you...
Atrial Fibrillation: Heart Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Afib Treatment
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation or AF can lead to serious heart...
Atrial Flutter Symptoms and Signs
Examples of Medications for Atrial Flutter Symptoms and Signs
- amiodarone, Cordarone, Nextrone, Pacerone
- diltiazem (Cardizem, Cardizem CD, Cardizem LA, Tiazac, Cartia XT, Diltzac, Dilt-CD, and several oth)
- dofetilide - oral, Tikosyn
- flecainide - oral, Tambocor
- propafenone (Rythmol, Rythmol SR)
- sotalol, Betapace, Betapace AF, Sorine, Sotylize
- verapamil (Calan, Verelan, Verelan PM [Discontinued: Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Covera-HS])