That Heart Flutter Wasn’t from Cupid’s Arrow

Valentine’s Day was just a couple months back, and many people hopefully felt their hearts flutter just a bit.

At Hunterdon Cardiovascular, our cardiologists are more concerned with a different type of flutter that’s not to do with your love life — atrial flutter, which occurs in the right atrium. While atrial flutter itself is not life threatening, if left untreated it can lead to atrial fibrillation and stroke.

We treat atrial flutter at Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates.

What is atrial flutter?

Atrial flutter occurs when an abnormal conduction circuit develops inside the right atrium. When this happens, it allows that right atria to beat very fast, around 300 beats per minute. At the same time the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, beat at a slower rate of around 75 to 100 beats per minute.

This type of rhythm is called tachycardia. In atrial flutter, it is more specifically known as supraventricular (above the ventricles) tachycardia.

What is dangerous about atrial flutter?

As with most rhythm abnormalities, the problem when the heart beats too quickly is that it doesn’t pump blood as well. You could equate this metaphorically to pumping a bellows when stoking a fire. If you pump it very quickly, the bursts are smaller and uneven. When you pump it fully, yet at a slower rate, the airflow is strong and even.

This ineffective blood flow moves the blood more slowly. This is a prime recipe for blood clot formation, and these clots can travel to the brain and lead to a stroke. Vital organs such as the brain and the heart muscle may not get enough blood, due to this uneven pumping. This can lead to congestive heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

Who gets atrial flutter?

Atrial flutter occurs most commonly in elderly patients. People with high blood pressure, as well as heart disease or congenital heart abnormalities, are more prone to developing atrial flutter. Atrial flutter can come and go. This is known as paroxysmal atrial flutter. Less frequently, the condition is almost permanent.

Symptoms of atrial flutter

  • Palpitations
  • A fluttering or tremor-like feeling in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety

For those with heart or lung disease, these more significant symptoms can occur:

  • Chest pains
  • Feeling faint or light-headed
  • Fainting

Treating atrial flutter

Our cardiologists treat atrial flutter with various types of medications, as well as catheter ablation. This solves the problem in most people.

Do you have any symptoms of atrial flutter? If so, don’t hesitate to call the heart specialists at Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates, (908) 788-1710, and let’s check out your heart.

Posted in: Hunterdon Heart & Vascular Center

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