Atrial flutter

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description

Atrial flutter (AFL) is a common abnormal heart rhythm that starts in the atrial chambers of the heart.  It may be also called palpitations.  Atrial flutter was first identified as an independent medical condition in 1920 by the British physician Sir Thomas Lewis (1881–1945) and colleagues.

Atrial flutter is recognized on an electrocardiogram by presence of characteristic flutter waves at a regular rate of 280 to 300 beats per minute. Individual flutter waves may be symmetrical, resembling p-waves, or may be asymmetrical with a "sawtooth" shape, rising gradually and falling abruptly or vice versa. “If atrial flutter is suspected clinically but is not clearly evident on ECG, acquiring a Lewis lead ECG may be helpful in revealing flutter waves.”

Although this abnormal heart rhythm typically occurs in individuals with cardiovascular disease (e.g. high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, arrythmia etc), it may occur spontaneously in people with otherwise normal hearts. It may be a one-off event or persist for months to years.

Please see the section on heart disease for more details.

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