Heart Education

Atrial Flutter




Atrial flutter can present much like atrial fibrillation; however the EKG findings for this disorder are much different.

Instead of having an irregularly irregular set of complexes, with no discernable P-wave activity, you will likely see a characteristic “saw-tooth” appearance of the QRS complexes. (5,6)
Another common presenting sign of atrial flutter is hypotension associated with palpitations. (5)

“A flutter” is a rapid tachycardia of ectopic atrial origin, with a rate typically between 250 and 350 beats per minute (or 150 beats per minute if it has 2:1 conduction, common). This is from only one ectopic pacemaker, which overtakes the natural pacemaker of the heart, the SA node. Typically, it takes many flutter complexes to produce a QRS (ventricular depolarization) complex. (6)

Many of the same causes exist for atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. However, atrial flutter is more commonly associated with atrial septal defects, past medical histories of atrial operations, and with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Drugs and medicines can also be a transient cause of atrial flutter.

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