The name flutter comes from its English origin, which means beating of wings. In medicine it means a tachycardia involving very fast but regular contractions of the atria (or ventricles). It is diagnosed from an electrocardiogram (ECG).
When it is accompanied by the descriptive term atrial, the flutter obviously means contractions of the cardiac atria. These contract at a rate of 250 to 350 beats per minute, which is extremely fast. The major symptoms of atrial flutter are palpitations or even persistent tiredness.
What are the risks of atrial flutter?
Atrial flutter is less common than atrial fibrillation. This other heart disorder involves irregular contractions of the atria producing a disorganised cardiac rhythm. In both situations the main risk is of a thrombus, i.e. a blood clot forming. This may migrate into the systemic circulation and cause an infarction or cerebrovascular accident (CVA).
As in atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is treated by controlling the heart rate. And preventing thromboembolism.
- Grenoble Faculty of Medicine, website accessed on 18 October 2011
- Merck Manual, Fourth edition.
Atrial flutter describes a heart which is beating fast and regularly. © Phovoir