In addition to tachycardia, bradycardia, premature contraction and fibrillation, rhythm disorders include:
ADAMS-STOKES DISEASE (also called Stokes-Adams or Morgangni)
- The normal heartbeat passing from the heart's upper to lower chambers is interrupted, causing a heart block.
- When a heart block occurs, the heart rate usually slows considerably.
- This can result in inadequate blood flow to the brain and fainting (syncope).
- Patients may also have convulsions.
If you have atrial flutter, rapidly fired signals cause the muscles in the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) to contract quickly.
This leads to a very fast, steady heartbeat. Atrial Flutter can also occur in someone who has atrial fibrillation (or AFib/flutter), or it can be its own arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat rhythm in someone with a usually normal heartbeat). If you feel your heart is beating faster or irregularly when taking your own pulse rate or if you sense a feeling in your chest that your heart is not beating at a regular pace (palpitations), do not delay in calling your healthcare provider.
Atrial Flutter is usually found in patients with:
- Heart failure
- Previous heart attack
- Valve abnormalities or congenital defects
- High blood pressure
- Recent surgery
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Alcoholism (especially binge drinking)
- Chronic lung disease
- Acute (serious) illness
- Or after open-heart surgery (bypass surgery)
- Can be found concurrently in people with atrial fibrillation
- Fast, steady pulse
- Angina (chest pain)
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting (syncope)
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heart rhythm combined with afib
Please follow the links above and elsewhere on this page to further explore diagnosis, treatment options, and other information about conditions associated with atrial flutter.
SICK SINUS SYNDROME
When the sinus node doesn't fire its signals properly, the heart rate slows down. This is called "sick sinus syndrome." In this condition, the rate sometimes changes back and forth between a slow rate (bradycardia) and a fast rate (tachycardia).
Cyclic changes in the heart rate during breathing, common in children and often found in adults.
WOLFF-PARKINSON-WHITE (WPW) SYNDROME
Abnormal pathways between the atria and ventricles (called accessory pathways) cause the electrical signal to arrive at the ventricles too soon and to be transmitted back into the atria. These accessory pathways can cause electrical impulses to travel in both directions rather than on direction (normal). Some people with WPW also have atrial fibrillation. WPW causes the conduct of impulses to be faster than normal. Very fast heart rates may develop as the electrical signal ricochets between the atria and ventricles. Some people with WPW syndrome don't have symptoms but they still have an increased risk for sudden death.
Doctors can detect WPW through a routine exam known as an electrocardiogram, or ECG . Electrodes placed on the chest will pick up the heart’s electrical activity and chart it on a graph. That graph will show any irregularities.
How is this syndrome treated?
If the condition is treated – and, if so, how – depends on several factors, such as the severity and frequency of symptoms, risk for future arrhythmias and patient preference.
People who don’t have symptoms usually don’t need treatment. For those who feel rapid heartbeats, medicine can help get that under control.
If medication doesn’t work, a therapy known as cardioversion (shock) may be used to return the heart rate to normal. An “ablation” procedure is the usual way used to block the unwanted shortcut. A flexible tube called a catheter is guided to the site of the problem. A mild, painless zap of radiofrequency energy destroys the problem-causing tissue. This procedure is done under mild sedation with local anesthesia. There is little to no discomfort, a high success rate and a low risk of complications. Patients usually resume normal activities within a few days.
This content was last reviewed September 2016.