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Atrial flutter is one of the more common abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and involves the upper heart chambers (atria). It is caused by an abnormal electrical circuit that makes the atria beat quickly and flutter instead of fully squeezing. It can result in fast heart rates and a decrease in heart efficiency. This causes symptoms and increases the risk for stroke.
Normal electrical heart impulses are generated by the sinus node (SA node) in the right atrium. This node regulates the heart rate and timing of heartbeats. The electrical impulses travel through the heart muscle in the atria, triggering the muscle to squeeze. In atrial flutter, an abnormal electrical circuit forms in the atria after some type of heart muscle damage or other heart changes. This new circuit takes over the heart rhythm causing the abnormal fluttering.
Although atrial flutter is not life-threatening at first, it does reduce your heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. This can cause a clot to form in your heart. If the clot breaks loose, it could lead to a stroke.
Over time, atrial flutter can weaken your heart muscle and can eventually contribute to heart failure. Atrial flutter can gradually become atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia.
Although not immediately life-threatening, complications of atrial flutter can be serious if left untreated. See your healthcare provider if you notice any of the possible signs and symptoms of atrial flutter.
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