Atrial Flutter: Current Concepts & Management Strategies

Typical atrial flutter (AFL), a condition which affects an estimated 200,000 new patients annually, has been defined as a pattern of regular tachycardia originating in the right atrium with an atrial rate of 240 beats/minute or higher. The current prevalence of AFL is high and is projected to increase considerably by 2050. Although not as common as atrial fibrillation, AFL can be a chronic condition. If left untreated, AFL can lead to debilitating symptoms, including shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, fainting, chest tightness, fatigue, and weakness. It can significantly impair quality of life and is associated with impaired cardiac output, atrial thrombus formation, and stroke. With proper treatment, however, AFL is rarely life threatening and symptoms can usually be managed effectively. “Atrial flutter is a common condition which should be treated appropriately to alleviate symptoms and prevent clot formation,” says Angelo Biviano, MD, MPH. Dr. Biviano adds that AFL in some patients can be associated with atrial fibrillation, and proper diagnosis and treatment is imperative. Research suggests that elimination of AFL may delay but not prevent fibrillation. Therefore, proper diagnosis and treatment of AFL is imperative. “The good news is that several treatment strategies exist for AFL,” says Dr. Biviano. “Consideration of patients’ medical history as well as their preferences will help guide treatment strategies for patients.” Identifying Causes AFL may be caused by abnormalities or diseases of the heart as well as diseases elsewhere in the body that affect the heart. These include diseases of the heart valves, especially the mitral valve, and chamber enlargement/hypertrophy. Diseases of the heart that have been linked to AFL include ischemia, atherosclerosis,...