How is Atrial Flutter Diagnosed?


Atrial flutter is diagnosed with tests that record how fast the heart beats and whether the rhythm is steady or irregular. The simplest of these tests is an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).

Your doctor can do an EKG during an office visit. The following tests are used to diagnose atrial flutter:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - This test takes only a few minutes. Small plastic patches called leads that contain electrodes are attached to the chest, arms, and legs. The electrodes detect the electrical activity of the heart while the test is being done, and the results are recorded as line tracings on paper or a computer screen.
  • Holter monitor - A small, portable EKG device that is worn and records the electrical activity of the heart continuously for 24 hours or longer. If your atrial flutter comes and goes, a Holter monitor may record an episode that an EKG would miss.
  • Event monitor - Another type of portable EKG device, an event monitor, records the heart rhythm only when you activate it. You can turn it on when you are having symptoms. You might wear an event monitor for up to a month.
  • Electrophysiological (EP) study - This test checks for abnormal heart rhythms and helps determine where the problem is. During an EP study, thin wire electrodes are threaded through a vein and into the heart, where they detect and record its electrical activity. This procedure requires sedation.
  • Consumer products – Products and devices such as a smartwatch or certain apps can help you screen for arrhythmias

How is Atrial Flutter Treated?​


Atrial flutter is treated with a variety of therapies depending on your individual symptoms and test results. The goal is to restore a normal heart rhythm and rate and to prevent stroke.

Your doctor might first treat underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure or hyperthyroidism, that can contribute to atrial flutter. In addition, atrial flutter treatment may be done with medication, nonsurgical therapy, or surgery.

The following treatments for atrial flutter are offered:

  • Medications - For atrial flutter, medications may be given to slow the heart rate (antiarrhythmics) or prevent blood clots and strokes (blood thinners)
  • Electrical cardioversion - In this procedure, a brief electric shock is given to the heart to reset its rhythm. This is done under sedation.
  • Catheter ablation - This procedure is done in the hospital at the same time as an electrophysiological study. A thin tube (catheter) is threaded through a vein to the heart. Heat from an electrode at the catheter's tip can destroy tiny areas of the heart that are causing an abnormal heart rate.



A fluttery feeling can trigger the urge to cough. Coughing and an irregular heartbeat together may be symptoms of an upper respiratory infection or pneumonia. Also, a persistent dry cough can be a symptom of heart disease.

In general, exercise is good for heart health, including for people with arrhythmias. Try walking or yoga and ask your doctor for advice.

Very rarely will an atrial flutter go away by itself and need no treatment.
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Schedule an appointment for an accurate diagnosis of your atrial flutter symptoms. We use the latest electrophysiology tests, heart imaging techniques, and other exams to precisely identify the cause and location of your arrhythmia.

We offer personalized treatment for all types of arrhythmia, including atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.