COVID-19: Find information on how we’re keeping you safe here.

To top

What is the Difference Between Atrial Fibrillation & Atrial Flutter?

What is the Difference Between Atrial Fibrillation & Atrial Flutter?

OneWelbeck helps patients with conditions like atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. There can be confusion regarding what each is, how they’re different, and what that means for the patients.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions regarding the two, and what you should know about these heart conditions.

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition where someone develops an irregular (abnormal) heart rhythm. This irregularity originates in the atria.

Electrical and mechanical activity in the atrium becomes irregular, although this is unrelated to the activity in the ventricles.

Atrial fibrillation can be acute, paroxysmal (intermittent) or permanent.

What is atrial flutter?

Atrial flutter is a heart condition where someone develops an irregular (abnormal) heart rhythm. This irregularity originates in the atria.

With atrial flutter, electrical and mechanical activities appear regular due to an electrical “short circuit” loop. This means the atria will tend to beat at 250-300 bpm. These beats act as electrical activity which gets transmitted to the ventricles in a 1:2,1:3 or 1:4 manner.

What are the similarities between atrial fibrillation & atrial flutter?

Both heart conditions will see patients have an abnormal heart rhythm and can be treated in a similar manner.

Presentations of both can be the same (i.e. a patient with either could have the same symptoms), which sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Both can have similar consequences if left untreated.

What are the differences between atrial fibrillation & atrial flutter?

Atrial fibrillation is more commonly due to other cardiovascular conditions such as ischemic heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes.

It has a more stable rhythm and is usually permanent.

Atrial flutter is less common and usually secondary to an abhorrent electrical pathway in the atria.

Which condition would be deemed more serious?

Atrial flutter would be considered more severe as it can deteriorate into more threatening arrhythmias.

Can someone have both conditions?

Yes. It is estimated that a third of people with atrial flutter also have atrial fibrillation.

How are atrial fibrillation & atrial flutter treated?

Both conditions can be treated with a medicine plan that helps to control heart rhythm and help with anticoagulation.

It is also common for a patient to receive cardioversion or catheter ablation.

Can these conditions carry risks?

Risks associated with both can include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Pulmonary oedema

Talk with our team

Want to speak with someone about these conditions and options for treatment?

OneWelbeck Heart Health provides treatment for patients with atrial issues. We recommend getting in touch with us directly by clicking here if you would like to meet with a cardiologist and discuss your issues.