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What is the difference between atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter?

Please explain the difference between AFIB and AFlutter. Is one more serious than the other?  

submitted by a Nancy from Houston, Texas on 3/14/2013


by Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Mohammad Saeed, MD    

Mohammad Saeed, MDAfib and Aflutter are distinct arrhythmias but are closely related. Both of them arise from the upper chambers of the heart (i.e. the atrium, therefore, both the names contain the prefix "atrial") and are characterized by rapid and irregular heartbeats. The difference is in the mechanism. Afib is more chaotic and typically arises from left upper chamber (left atrium), while Aflutter is more organized and tends to arise from right upper chamber (right atrium).  

The prognosis of both these arrhythmias depends upon the underlying heart condition. People who have normal hearts tend to do better overall as compared to people who have moderate to severe heart disease. Treatment generally consists of medications and catheter ablation therapy.     

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Updated March 2013
Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center
Through this community outreach program, staff members of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) provide educational information related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It is not the intention of THI to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided and THI urges you to visit a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your questions.
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