Atrial flutter is a condition, characterized by abnormal heart rhythm that occurs in the atria of the heart. Such a type of condition is associated with a heart rate of 240 to 400 beats per minutes, a phenomenon known as tachycardia.
Not every individual with atrial flutter will have symptoms. The reason is that healthy individuals can very well tolerate the increase in heart rate; however those with underlying disease conditions can experience pain in the chest, dyspnea, nausea, nervousness, and dizziness. In more severe cases, or when the flutter continues for longer duration, then it can lead to heart failure, or development of nocturnal breathlessness and edema of the legs and abdomen .
Patients suffering from atrial flutter have also reported to experience the following symptoms:
A preliminary physical examination will be done, followed by the following diagnostic procedures:
The basic objective of treatment is to reduce the electrical impulses, which would in turn help in normalizing the heart beat. In order to achieve this, the following methods would be employed :
When appropriately treated, atrial flutter can be successfully managed, and seldom gives rise to any complications. However, without treatment, it can lead to development of stroke and blood clots . Underlying medical conditions gravely affect the prognosis of atrial flutter. Patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, who also suffer from atrial flutter, are at risk of developing life threatening consequences, if catheter ablation is not considered in such cases. Also, untreated atrial flutter can lead to atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy and long term disability.
Individuals living with heart disease, or those who have undergone open heart surgery, are at an increased risk of developing atrial flutter. Stress and anxiety can also considerably increase the risk of the condition. Certain medications prescribed for cold, overuse of caffeine, diet pills and alcohol, predispose an individual to develop atrial flutter .
In addition to the above mentioned conditions, there are various risk factors that significantly increase the chances of atrial flutter. These include:
The condition of atrial flutter majorly affects the population of older adults. About 200,000 new cases of atrial flutter are known to occur in the US every year . Men are at an increased risk of developing the condition. In a study of 100 patients suffering from atrial flutter, it was seen that 75% of them were males.
Factors that interfere with the appropriate functioning of the electrical impulses of the heart, may give rise to the condition of atrial flutter. Under normal conditions, the sinus node controls the heart, which is situated on the top of the atrium. In this condition, the atria send out reentrant rhythms that overwhelm the sinus node. Such a phenomenon causes the atria to contract rapidly .
This condition was described and identified as an independent medical condition by British physician Sir Thomas Lewis in the year 1920. Atrial flutter is grouped into the category of supraventricular tachycardia. In this condition, the atria of heart beat so fast, that the muscle contractions of the atria are faster than those of ventricles. Atrial flutter is associated with certain degree of atrioventricular node conduction block .