Atrial flutter (AFL) is an arrhythmia caused by a rapid electrical impulse that travels through the atrium in a continuous circular path. AFL is usually characterized by a rapid rate of atrial contraction (200 to 300 beats per minute), with a ventricular rate that is also somewhat rapid but to a lesser extent (usually 75 to 150 beats per minute).
Although not always experienced by the patient, symptoms can include palpitations, a fluttering feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and chest pain.
If you experience chest pain, you should seek medical assistance immediately. Chest pain may be a sign that you are having a heart attack.
Treatment options for AFL include medications, cardioversion (an electrical shock to the chest), and catheter ablation. When medications are used, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and/or anti-arrhythmic agents may be effective. Moreover, patients with atrial flutter are often treated with anticoagulants such as warfarin to prevent blood clots and stroke.
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is an irregular heart rhythm. When a person has Afib, the upper chambers of the heart will quiver, or fibrillate. Because the chambers are fibrillating, they do not have enough force to contract fully and do not coordinate with the lower chambers.
Much like atrial flutter, individuals with Afib may or may not experience symptoms. Symptoms of Afib include dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and decrease in exercise tolerance.
Treatment options for Afib usually includes two approaches:
- Lowering the risk of stroke using medications that keep the blood thin and/or decrease blood clotting.
- Treating the arrhythmia with anti-arrhythmic medications and/or medical interventions such as cardiac ablation.
Atrial tachycardia (AT) is a type of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) that results from abnormal electrical activity in the atria. Most cases of AT occur in normal healthy hearts and are harmless, but it can also be the result of a recent cardiac surgery or even be a symptom of congenital heart disease.
The symptoms of AT include a rapid heartbeat and eventually shortness of breath, dizziness, and chest pain. The severity of symptoms normally depends on the age and health status of the patient.
Although rarely necessary, treatment is normally focused on reducing the heart rate through the use of beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers.
Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is an arrhythmia that occurs in one of the ventricles of the heart. During VT, the heart races at rates from 150 to 200+ beats per minute (a normal heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute). Although the ventricle beats faster than normal, the atrial rate is actually normal. In one variation of VT, the heart beats faster but pumps less blood because there is not enough time for the heart to fill with blood between beats. If this occurs, the body and its vital organs may not receive enough blood.