Main Content

Atrial Flutter


​Treatments for Atrial Flutter

Your treatment choices depend mainly on:​

  • how long you’ve had atrial flutter
  • how long it lasts
  • if a cause was found
  • your risk of stroke
  • how much trouble your symptoms cause

Most often, treatment includes medicine that either keeps your heart in a normal rhythm or keeps your pulse at a normal rate (under 100 bpm) while the atria are in atrial flutter. Your family doctor or your heart doctor (cardiologist) will talk to you more about these medicines.

To prevent a blood clot from forming in your heart, you may be started on a blood thinner medicine. The most common one is warfarin (Coumadin®). Other blood thinners that work as well as warfarin, have a lower risk of bleeding, and don’t need regular blood tests are also available. Please speak with your doctor or cardiologist if you’d you like to know more.

If you are prescribed warfarin, you will be asked to have a blood test (INR) done regularly to make sure the dose is right for you.

Aspirin (ASA) also works as a blood thinner and is sometimes used for people who are at a low risk of having a stroke.

If the atrial flutter can’t be managed well with medicine, your cardiologist may recommend that you have an electrical cardioversion done. This procedure is done while you’re asleep; paddles are applied to your chest and an electrical shock is delivered to your heart through your chest wall. The shock disrupts the fast atrial impulses so the SA node can take over, making your heart beat at a normal rate. The SA node is the natural pacemaker within the heart.

In some cases, you will be referred to see another cardiac specialist called an electrophysiologist. An electrophysiologist is a cardiologist with extra training in treating people with heart rhythm problems.

These doctors may have other suggestions or treatment options for people whose atrial flutter is hard to control. One of these treatments is an invasive procedure called an ablation. If this procedure is a treatment option for you, the electrophysiologist will talk to you more about it.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about your arrhythmia and treatment options if you’ve been diagnosed with atrial flutter.

Even if you have no symptoms while in atrial flutter, you may still be prescribed medicine because of the risk of stroke. If a cause is found, such as high blood pressure, you will be treated for that condition as well. Before you see your doctor, write down any questions or concerns you may have.

Current as of: May 15, 2018

Author: Cardiac Arrhythmia Services, Alberta Health Services