Atrial flutter is a form of erratic heart rate or arrhythmia. This occurs once the upper heart chambers beat too rapidly. Once the chambers in the atria beat more rapidly than the ventricles, the heart rhythm is out of sync.
Generally, an individual with atrial flutter will not feel the fluttering of the heart. The symptoms often arise in other ways such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Lightheaded or feeling faint
- Chest pressure or tightness
- Difficulty when performing daily tasks due to fatigue
Take note that stress also increases the heart rate and can worsen the symptoms. The indications of atrial flutter are common in other conditions. If an individual has one or more of these symptoms, it is not necessarily an indication of the condition. The symptoms often persist for days or even weeks at a time.
The risk factors of atrial flutter include existing conditions, certain medications and lifestyle choices. The usual risk factors include:
- Heart disease
- Previous heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Lung diseases
- Heart valve conditions
- Anxiety or stress
- Recent surgery
- Using diet pills or other medications
- Alcoholism or binge drinking
The main objective of treatment is to restore the heart rhythm to normal. The treatment is based on the severity of the condition. If there are other underlying health issues, it might affect the treatment.
Medications can regulate or slow down the heart rate. Some of these medications will require the individual to stay in the hospital for a brief period as the body adjusts such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and digoxin.
Other medications that are used to restore the heart rhythm to normal include amiodarone, flecainide and propafenone. In addition, blood thinners specifically warfarin are given to prevent the formation of clots in the arteries.
Ablation therapy is utilized when atrial flutter could not be controlled with medications. It involves destruction of the heart tissues responsible for the abnormal rhythm. A pacemaker might be required after surgery to control the heartbeat.