Difference Between Atrial Flutter and Atrial Fibrillation (With Table)

Our heart beats in a very synchronized rhythmic manner. Any disturbance in the form of irregular electrical signals or disrupted signal pathways may cause the abnormal beating of the heart, commonly known as arrhythmias. Arrhythmias can be caused by the abnormal beating of the two atria or the two ventricles.

Atrial Flutter vs Atrial Fibrillation

The difference between atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation is that while one is a rhythmic phenomenon, the other is chaotic. Atrial flutter is rhythmic, while atrial fibrillation is arrhythmic. This difference occurs due to difference in the method of electrical signal conductance, and hence the severity of these abnormalities also differ.

Atrial flutters refer to the abnormally fast beating of the atrium that is not in sync with the ventricles. The beats are conducted almost at double the ratio of ventricular rate. However, these beats are in rhythm and appear continuously for some time before returning to the normal club-dub heartbeat.

Atrial fibrillation refers to the abnormally fast beating of the atrium that is not in sync with the ventricles. The beats are conducted at higher rates than the ventricular rate. However, these beats are not rhythmic and are random, which appear for some time before returning to the normal club-dub heartbeat.

Comparison Table Between Atrial Flutter and Atrial Fibrillation

Parameters of ComparisonAtrial FlutterAtrial Fibrillation
Nature of BeatsThe beats of atrial flutter are fast but periodic.The beats of a trail fibrillations are fast and chaotic.
OccurrenceIt is not a very common heart disease like fibrillations.It is the most common type of heartbeat disease and more common than flutters.
Rate of BeatsThe heartbeat rate is almost 2:1.The heartbeat rate of atrial beating is increased.
SeverityIt is less severe of a condition than atrial fibrillations.It is more severe heart disease than atrial flutters.
ECG patternIt shows a distinctive saw-tooth patternShows a very irregular pattern.

What is Atrial Flutter?

Atrial Flutter is a type of arrhythmia suffered by people with heart diseases and hypertension. It is a condition characterized by the sudden fast beating of the atrium. Only the atrium beats with an increased speed such that it’s the rate of beating us almost twice that of the ventricular beating. The numbers are almost like 300: 150.

The main reason for atrial flutter to occur is any form of damage to the pacemaker cells of the heart that does not conduct its function properly. This leads to an altered heart pace. Sudden episodes of faster but repeated beatings occur that, if recorded in an Electrocardiogram (ECG), shows a comb bristle or saw-tooth appearance.

Its symptoms include dizziness, fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain or discomfort or, in severe cases, a stroke. However, the chances of getting a stroke from atrial flutter are less likely. There are certain risk factors such as alcohol abuse, obesity, existing heart disease, birth defects, hypertension and such that can increase the chances of having this problem.

In case of atrial flutter, patients are advised to check their blood pressure and sugar levels. It is harder to catch and diagnose atrial glitter as it occurs momentarily. It can, in severe cases, turn into atrial fibrillations.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillations is a type of arrhythmia suffered by people with high blood pressure and preexisting heart diseases. It is a condition characterized by the sudden fast-beating of the atrium. Only the atrium beats with an increased speed such that its rate is much higher than the ventricular beating. The beats are almost 100-175.

The main reason for atrial fibrillation to occur is any form of damage to the pacemaker cells of the heart that does not conduct its function properly. This leads to an altered heart pace. Sudden episodes of faster but disorganized that the heartbeats may be faster at some time or slower at others. These episodes of unorganized heartbeats are recorded in several small and large spikes.

Its symptoms are similar to the previous condition. It includes dizziness, fainting, palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, blood clot, and this blood can even cause a stroke. Stroke is common in people suffering from Atrial Fibrillation. There are certain risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart failure, birth defects, alcohol or drug abuse, chronic lung disease or sleep apnea.

It is easier to detect atrial fibrillations as it lasts for a longer period and has more pronounced effects.

Main Differences Between Atrial Flutter and Atrial Fibrillation

  1. Atrial flutter has organized controlled beating, whereas atrial fibrillation has disorganized uncontrolled beating making it unpredictable.
  2. Atrial flutter is more responsive to ablation therapy in comparison to Atrial Fibrillation.
  3. Atrial flutter is less common, whereas Atrial Fibrillation is one of the most common heart arrhythmias.
  4. Atrial flutter is a less severe heart condition, whereas atrial fibrillations are more likely to cause a stroke and thus is more severe.
  5. Atrial flutter can develop into atrial fibrillation. But atrial fibrillation does not tone down to atrial flutter.
  6. In the case of atrial flutter, the heartbeat is much faster than in the case of atrial fibrillation.

Conclusion

Atrial tachycardia is a cardiac condition where the contraction of the atrium is faster than usual rates and exceeds the rate of the ventricles, which in normal conditions is of a similar rate. Arrhythmias are types of tachycardia. Both atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation are types of arrhythmias.

Regular exercise, eating healthy food, weight management, diabetes control are some of the simplest things people with arrhythmias can do to control their condition. In case of mild symptoms, immediate checkups and follow up care is necessary. Regular heart checkups and ECG can be done to detect any atrial flutters or fibrillations.

References

  1. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199205073261906
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109785804976
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