An Overview of Atrial Flutter

 

Atrial Flutter pic
Atrial Flutter
Image: stanfordhealthcare.org

Dr. Sanjiv M. Narayan serves as a professor of medicine and the director of the Stanford Arrhythmia Center at Stanford University. Over the course of his career, Dr. Sanjiv Narayan’s research on atrial fibrillation has been cited in multiple studies pertaining to the condition and related disorders, such as atrial flutter.

Atrial flutter is a cardiac abnormality wherein the upper chambers of the heart beat too fast, causing muscles in the area to contract and fall out of sync with the heart’s lower chambers. The heart beats an average of 250 to 400 times per minute, as opposed to the healthy rate of 60 to 100. Compared to atrial fibrillation, the rapid heartbeat occurs in a regular, more organized manner and appears as a sawtooth pattern on electrocardiogram tests.

Because the rapid heartbeat stays at a steady pace for people with atrial flutter, some individuals will not notice any symptoms. Those who do may experience shortness of breath, chest discomfort, heart palpitations, fainting, and dizziness or lightheadedness. While not life-threatening, the condition can potentially lead to more series complications if left untreated. For instance, it increases the risk for blood clots, which can in turn cause stroke or heart failure.

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Mechanisms of Atrial Flutter

 

 Atrial Flutter pic
Atrial Flutter
Image: webmd.com

Dr. Sanjiv M. Narayan directs both the electrophysiology research program and the atrial fibrillation program at Stanford University. From 2002 to 2017, Dr. Sanjiv Narayan has published papers that analyzed cardiac rhythm patterns in patients with atrial fibrillation and flutter.

A person’s heartbeat stems from activity in the sinoatrial (SA) node, a structure located in the right atrium of the heart. The Sino-atrial node generates an impulse that travels through the heart, pausing for a moment at the atrioventricular (AV) node to allow the blood to move from the top half of the heart to the bottom.

In the case of atrial flutter, a specific organized type of abnormality develops in the pathway that the electrical impulse follows. This causes the impulse to travel in a circular motion, which makes the atria of the heart beat more rapidly than the ventricles.

A heart with atrial flutter cannot pump blood as effectively as it should. Insufficient blood flow can then cause vital organs to receive insufficient oxygen and nutrients, which may lead to organ failure. There is also a risk of heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure.