In atrial flutter, your heart's upper chambers (atria) beat too quickly. This causes the heart to beat in a fast, regular rhythm.
Atrial flutter is a type of heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia) caused by problems in your heart's electrical system.
Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder. However, the rhythm in your atria is more organized and less chaotic in atrial flutter than are the abnormal patterns common with atrial fibrillation. Sometimes you may have periods of both atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation.
Experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience and expertise in diagnosing and treating people with atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation and other heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias).
Mayo doctors evaluate and treat more than 4,500 people with atrial flutter each year.
- Team approach. Mayo doctors trained in evaluating and treating heart conditions (cardiologists), heart surgery (cardiac surgeons) and other doctors work closely to evaluate and treat people with atrial flutter and other heart rhythm conditions.
- Research. Doctors at Mayo actively conduct research in atrial flutter and other heart rhythm disorders and conduct clinical trials.
- Technology. Mayo Clinic doctors use the most current technology in atrial flutter and heart rhythm disorder treatment, including cardiac ablation.
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for heart and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.
At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.
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Mayo Clinic doctors trained in heart conditions (cardiologists), cardiologists trained in heart rhythm disorders (electrophysiologists) and other doctors evaluate and treat people with atrial flutter and related conditions.
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will discuss your symptoms and your medical and family history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may order several tests to determine the cause and severity of your condition and determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition, including:
- Blood tests. Blood tests may be used to check your potassium and thyroid hormone levels in your blood, which may lead to atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation.
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray takes images of your chest, heart and lungs, which may help your doctor see if your heart is enlarged.
- Echocardiogram (Doppler echocardiogram). In this test, sound waves create detailed images of your heart's size, structure and motion.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). In an ECG, doctors place sensor patches (electrodes) on your skin to measure the electrical impulses given off by your heart. An ECG measures the timing and rhythm of each electrical phase in your heartbeat.
- Event recorder. An event recorder is a portable ECG device that you can activate when you experience symptoms.
- Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is a portable ECG device that you wear for a day or more to record your heart's electrical activity during your daily routine.
- Stress test. In a stress test, doctors monitor your heart using an ECG or other tests as you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. If you have difficulty exercising, your doctor may give you a drug to help stimulate your heart in a similar way as during exercise.
Doctors trained in heart conditions (cardiologists), heart rhythm disorders (electrophysiologists), heart surgery (cardiovascular surgeons) and other doctors collaborate to develop the most appropriate treatment plan for your condition.
Your doctor will determine your treatment based on your symptoms and condition. Atrial flutter treatment goals include restoring your heart to a normal rhythm, regulating your heart rate and preventing blood clots.
Your treatment may include several options, including:
- Cardioversion. In cardioversion, your doctor may use paddles or patches on your chest to electrically shock your heart and help restore your heart's normal rhythm. Doctors may sometimes use drugs to stop your heart's fast rhythm and restore a normal rhythm.
Catheter ablation. In catheter ablation, your doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube (catheter) into a vein in your arm or groin and guides it through blood vessels to your heart. Electrodes at the catheter tips can use radiofrequency energy to destroy these hot spots, scarring the tissue so that the erratic signals are normalized. This corrects the arrhythmia without the need for medications or implantable devices.
Your doctor rarely may conduct atrioventricular (AV) node ablation. In this procedure, doctors use radiofrequency energy to destroy the electrical connection between the upper and lower heart chambers (AV node), blocking the heart's electrical impulses. Once the AV node is destroyed, doctors then implant a small medical device (pacemaker) to establish a normal heart rhythm.
- Medications. Your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart rate or heart rhythm and to prevent blood clots.
- Pacemakers. Your doctor may place a pacemaker under your skin near your collarbone to help regulate your heartbeat.
- Surgery. If other treatment isn't effective, your doctor may recommend the maze procedure to disrupt the electrical signals causing the atrial flutter. In this procedure, your surgeon makes small cuts in your upper heart chambers (atria) to help stop the disorganized electrical signals causing your condition.
- Follow-up care. You'll need follow-up appointments with your doctor to monitor your heart rhythm and rate.
Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.
Doctors trained in cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular and thoracic surgery treat people with atrial flutter at Mayo Clinic. Staff in the Arrhythmia Clinic and Electrophysiology Laboratory diagnoses and treats people with heart rhythm disorders.
For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- U.S. Patients
- International Patients
Doctors trained in cardiovascular diseases and cardiothoracic surgery treat people with atrial flutter at Mayo Clinic. Staff in the Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacemaker/Defibrillator Services performs electrophysiology tests and other procedures to diagnose and treat people with heart rhythm disorders.
For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- U.S. Patients
- International Patients
Doctors trained in cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular surgery treat adults and children with atrial flutter at Mayo Clinic. Staff in the Heart Rhythm Clinic evaluates and treats people with heart rhythm disorders. Staff in the Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia Ablation Laboratory conducts electrophysiology tests and other procedures to diagnose and treat people with heart rhythm disorders.
For appointments or more information, call Cardiovascular Diseases at 507-284-3994 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Cardiovascular Surgery
- International Patients
Doctors trained in pediatric cardiology and cardiovascular surgery treat children with atrial flutter or other heart conditions at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. Staff in the Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia Ablation Laboratory conducts electrophysiology tests and other procedures to diagnose and treat children with heart rhythm disorders.
For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.
- U.S. Patients
- International Patients
See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.
Doctors and surgeons trained in heart rhythm disorders study genetics, causes, diagnosis and treatment options for atrial flutter and other heart rhythm disorders. Read more about heart rhythm disease research and cardiovascular research.
See a list of publications by Mayo doctors on atrial flutter and other arrhythmias on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.
June 26, 2014
- Atrial flutter. Heart Rhythm Society. http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Heart-Diseases-Disorders/Atrial-Flutter#axzz2wFpvHKyW. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- What is an arrhythmia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- Riggin EA. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 13, 2014.
- Phang R. Overview of atrial flutter. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- Cheng J. Atrial flutter: Maintenance of sinus rhythm. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- Ganz LI. Control of ventricular rate in atrial flutter. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 4, 2014.
- What is atrial fibrillation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af/. Accessed March 17, 2014.