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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Atrial Flutter
      Category : Health Centers > Heart Diseases

Atrial Flutter

Alternate Names : Auricular Flutter

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Atrial flutter is a very rapid, regular heartbeat that starts in the atria, or upper chambers of the heart.

What is going on in the body?

In a person with atrial flutter, the regular beating of the atria is replaced by a more rapid beating. During these episodes, the heart can beat as fast as 250 to 350 beats per minute. The condition is caused by a short circuit in the electrical system of one atrium. This short circuit starts the heart beating much more rapidly than normal. Only some of the beats get through, so the entire heart doesn't usually beat as fast as the atria.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Atrial flutter is caused by a short circuit in one atrium. The electrical system starts running out of control, forcing the heart to beat rapidly. Factors linked to atrial flutter include:

  • congestive heart failure, in which a weakened heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body
  • coronary heart disease and certain other forms of heart disease
  • diabetes
  • digoxin toxicity, a condition caused by too much of the heart medicine digoxin
  • heart attack
  • heart valve disorders, such as those caused by rheumatic fever
  • high blood pressure
  • hyperthyroidism, a condition caused by too much thyroid hormone
  • increased age
  • pulmonary embolism, in which a blood clot blocks part of the circulation to the lung
  • recent open heart surgery

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    Next section

       

    Atrial Flutter: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Bill Harrison, MD
    Reviewer: William M. Boggs, MD
    Date Reviewed: 09/25/01



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