Atrial flutter is an abnormal rhythm in the top part of the heart that generates an irregular pulse and alters the way the heart functions. Atrial flutter is more common in patients who have high blood pressure, heart valve disease, lung problems and heart failure. Atrial flutter can also occur in people with otherwise normal hearts.
How common is it?
Atrial flutter affects at least 1 in 1000 of the population but it becomes more common with increasing age.
What symptoms might I get?
Patients with atrial flutter often describe symptoms of palpitation, giddiness, breathlessness and fatigue. Some patients with atrial flutter have no symptoms. The irregular heart rhythm can cause small clots to form within the heart, if these leave the heart they can result in stroke. The abnormality in heart function can result in the onset of heart failure.
What extra tests are required?
You may need a heart ultrasound called an echocardiogram to look at your heart structure and function. Some patients require a heart monitor to look at their heart rate profile.
Will I need treatment?
Patients with atrial flutter ften need medication to thin their blood to reduce their risk of stroke. Drug therapy may be required to slow the heart rate. Some patients require rhythm stabilising medication and are recommended to have an electrical procedure called cardioversion to restore the rhythm to normal. Some patients need a procedure called ablation to stabilise the heart rhythm.
Is it hereditary?
Does this affect my life expectancy?
Most patients with atrial flutter lead an entirely normal life with modern drugs and treatments.
What happens next?
If you have been diagnosed with atrial flutter, a consultation can be arranged with your GP or local cardiologist to discuss treatment options.