Are atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter the same?

Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are not the same thing. While they are both cardiac arrhythmias, they do not cause the heart to act dysfunctionally in the same way. With atrial fibrillation, the atria (upper portions) of the heart are beating irregularly; the heart can beat at a normal rate or it can beat too fast. Atrial flutter also causes the atria of the heart to beat too fast, but it does so regularly. Often, atrial flutter will become atrial fibrillation. 
Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are similar. Atrial fibrillation is characterized by disorganized electrical chaos in the atria, the top chambers of the heart. Atrial flutter is an organized rhythm where the top chambers beat at an organized but very rapid rate. The top chambers frequently beat at 300 beats per minute (bpm), making the bottom chambers beat faster too, at 100 to 150bpm. Treatment options for both are similar due to the increased risk of stroke with both rhythms. However, procedure targets are different with catheter ablation. Typical atrial flutter can be approached easily from the right side of the heart, allowing for a shorter procedure with lower risk of complications. There is also an overlap between the two arrhythmias as about 20 to 40 percent of patients with typical atrial flutter will develop atrial fibrillation.

Atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation are similar, and they share many of the same symptoms and risk factors, but they are not the same thing. In cases of atrial flutter, the pulse is likely to be quickened but regular; a person with atrial fibrillation, on the other hand, will have an irregular, quickened pulse. It is possible for one of these conditions to develop into the other.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.