Atrial Flutter | Symptoms and Treatment |MedStar Health

A type of irregular heart rhythm in which the heart beats too quickly

A normal heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. If you have a type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) known as atrial flutter, your heart may beat 250 to 300 times a minute in the upper chambers (atria), which may translate to heart rates of 100 to 300 times a minute in the lower chambers (ventricles). This flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation (AFib), except your heartbeat is more regular and less chaotic than with AFib.

With proper treatment, this condition is rarely life-threatening. However, it can increase your risk of stroke and heart failure if not treated. The physicians in our Cardiac Electrophysiology program are highly trained advanced subspecialists who manage even the most complex arrhythmias.

Symptoms

When the flutter lasts a few hours or days, it’s known as paroxysmal atrial flutter. If it’s more constant, it’s known as persistent atrial flutter. Some people don’t feel any symptoms. Others may experience chest pain (angina). If you’re experiencing severe chest pain, call 911 immediately.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting (syncope)

  • Palpitations, or sensations of a racing heart or fluttering in your chest

  • Shortness of breath

Causes

This condition may be caused by abnormalities or diseases of the heart or elsewhere in the body. It also may be caused by the consumption of substances that change how electrical impulses in the heart are transmitted.

Abnormalities, diseases, and behaviors can include:

Tests

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Electrophysiology Testing

Electrophysiology testing is used to evaluate the cause and location of an abnormal heartbeat (known as an arrhythmia).

Event Monitors

An event monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but where an electrocardiogram takes place over a few minutes, an event monitor measures heart rhythms over a much longer time.

Holter Monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram records over a few minutes, a Holter monitor records over the course of a day or two.

Loop Recorder

A loop recorder is a device that’s implanted underneath the skin of your chest to record your heart rhythm for up to 3 years.

Treatments

Our heart and vascular teams work together and with other specialties to develop and implement individualized plans for people with atrial flutter. This could include lifestyle modifications, medication, or more advanced treatments.

Arrhythmia Treatments (Heart Rhythm)

Treatments for arrhythmias, or heart rhythm disorders, such as minimally invasive procedures, implantable devices, and surgery, vary based on the type and severity of your condition.

Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac ablation uses heat or cold to destroy heart tissue causing abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmias.

Additional information

Electrophysiology program

We are leaders in developing and using the latest procedures and technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders, and our cardiac electrophysiology laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in North America.

Read our Cardiovascular Performance & Outcomes Booklet

Ask MHVI

Have questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net.