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Atrial Flutter

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by Badash M
 

Definition

The heart has four chambers. It has two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Electrical signals regulate the heart beat. The signals also help the atria and ventricles work together in the same rhythm. The blood from the atria is pushed into the ventricles and leave the heart to circulate to the rest of the body.
Atrial flutter is a type of abnormal fast beating ( arrhythmia ) in the atria. These fast beats make it difficult for the atria to pushing all the blood into the ventricles. As a result, the ventricles push less blood through the body.
Atrial flutter may be an acute or chronic disorder that comes and goes. Atrial flutter is not usually life-threatening when it is treated. However, it may increase your risk of developing blood clots and stroke .
This condition can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have atrial flutter.
Anatomy of the Heart
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
 

Causes

Atrial flutter may be caused by the following:
  • Heart disease
  • Heart surgery–atrial flutter is most common during the first few weeks after open-heart surgery
  • Disease in other parts of the body that affects the functioning of the heart, such as the lungs
  • Using substances such as caffeine, alcohol, diet pills, or certain types of prescription or over-the-counter medication that affect the electrical impulses of the heart
  • Stress and anxiety
 

Risk Factors

Risk factors that increase your chance of developing atrial flutter include:
Atrial flutter is more likely to develop in older adults.
 

Treatment

The goal of treating atrial flutter is to slow down the electrical impulses that are sent from the atria to the ventricles. Treatment aims at restoring normal rhythm and preventing future episodes. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Pharmacologic (Medication) Therapy

Medication may be given to slow the rapid heart rate and change the atrial flutter to a normal rhythm. These medications may include:
  • Beta-blockers (eg, metoprolol)
  • Digoxin
  • Adenosine
  • Nonhydropyridine calcium channel antagonists (eg, diltiazem, verapamil)
Other medications called antiarrhythmics may be used to change the rhythm back to normal. They may also help your heart maintain a normal rhythm. Some such medications include:
  • Sotalol (Betapace)
  • Propafenone (Rythmol)
  • Flecainide (Tambecor)
  • Amiodarone (Cordarone)
  • Dofetilide (Tikosyn)
  • Ibutilide (Corvert)

Cardioversion (Defibrillation)

An external defibrillator is applied to the chest. It uses electrical current to shock the heart back to its normal rhythm.
 

RESOURCES

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org/

Heart Rhythm Society
http://www.hrsonline.org/

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca

 

References


Atrial flutter. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated October 31, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2012.


Atrial flutter. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthlibrary/ . Updated November 9, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2012.


Atrial flutter. Heart Rhythm Society website. Available at http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Heart-Diseases-Disorders/Atrial-Flutter . Accessed November 9, 2012.


Lee KW, Yang Y, Scheinman MM. Atrial flutter: a review of its history, mechanisms, clinical features, and current therapy. Curr Prob Cardiol . 2005;30(3):121-167.

 

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