atrial fibrillation versus atrial flutter in comparison

  1. 0
    help..i just want somebody to explain to me in a very clear and thorough explanation regarding atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter..i do have the idea but i want to find a simple english that my friend will understand clearly...pls do reply ASAP...
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  3. 13 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    Last edit by sirI on Aug 21, '07
  5. 8
    It's hard to describe without pictures, but here goes:
    A-Fib is ALWAYS an irregular rhythm, sometimes decribed as "Irregularly irregular". Controlled A-Fib is a rate of 100 or less. Uncontrolled A-Fib is a rate greater than 100. When you look at an ECG, there are no P waves, and the PRI cannot be measured. If the pt is symptomatic, they are usually cardioverted. If they are asymptomatic, then they are treated with Dilitiazem, Amiodarone, and/ or a beta blocker. THey are always on anticoagulants to prevent clots in the atria.

    A-Flutter is a regular rhythm and rate is usually under 100. There is a classic "sawtooth" pattern showing on ECG. Usually a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio with the QRS complex. There are no P waves and the PRI is not measurable.
    Treatment is determined by symptoms. They may be cardioverted, but if asymptomatic, they may not be treated for this.
    Hope this helps!
    Amy
    elprup, Dazglue, NewTexasRN, and 5 others like this.
  6. 1
    Quote from al7139
    It's hard to describe without pictures, but here goes:
    A-Fib is ALWAYS an irregular rhythm, sometimes decribed as "Irregularly irregular". Controlled A-Fib is a rate of 100 or less. Uncontrolled A-Fib is a rate greater than 100. When you look at an ECG, there are no P waves, and the PRI cannot be measured. If the pt is symptomatic, they are usually cardioverted. If they are asymptomatic, then they are treated with Dilitiazem, Amiodarone, and/ or a beta blocker. THey are always on anticoagulants to prevent clots in the atria.

    A-Flutter is a regular rhythm and rate is usually under 100. There is a classic "sawtooth" pattern showing on ECG. Usually a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio with the QRS complex. There are no P waves and the PRI is not measurable.
    Treatment is determined by symptoms. They may be cardioverted, but if asymptomatic, they may not be treated for this.
    Hope this helps!
    Amy
    exactly. *a-fib is the ONLY rhythm that is *irregularly irregular*

    :spin:

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    elprup likes this.
  7. 1
    Quote from al7139
    It's hard to describe without pictures, but here goes:
    A-Fib is ALWAYS an irregular rhythm, sometimes decribed as "Irregularly irregular". Controlled A-Fib is a rate of 100 or less. Uncontrolled A-Fib is a rate greater than 100. When you look at an ECG, there are no P waves, and the PRI cannot be measured. If the pt is symptomatic, they are usually cardioverted. If they are asymptomatic, then they are treated with Dilitiazem, Amiodarone, and/ or a beta blocker. THey are always on anticoagulants to prevent clots in the atria.

    A-Flutter is a regular rhythm and rate is usually under 100. There is a classic "sawtooth" pattern showing on ECG. Usually a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio with the QRS complex. There are no P waves and the PRI is not measurable.
    Treatment is determined by symptoms. They may be cardioverted, but if asymptomatic, they may not be treated for this.
    Hope this helps!
    Amy
    Actually, just a quick clarification regarding 2 points...
    1) 'Irregulary irregular' means a rhythm that is 'irregular' at intervals...rather than constantly irregular. Man, is that confusing or what . The term is oftened used when assessing a pulse...but can be used in other ways.
    2)A-flutter can have a 'variable block', in which case it will be irregular (or even irregularly irregular ) Can be just as 'irregular' as a-fib.

    The thing about a-fib and a-flutter is that they're very similar. A-flutter is considered a more 'organized' rhythm because you can see an ecg baseline 'saw-tooth' pattern (in classic/text-book examples) which is basically the atria firing/contracting/fluttering...and why many times flutter can be 'regular'. (*Sometimes a 2:1 flutter can resemble a sinus rhythm...the flutter-waves resemble a p-wave and t-wave, or a p-wave and normal t-wave because the 2nd flutter wave is buried in the t-wave...just to make things a bit more confusing*)

    In a-fib the ecg baseline is usually 'static-like' which (in a classic-text book way) looks wavy/jagged/fibrillating. There is no pattern to it (which is why it's considered less 'organized' than flutter. (*sometimes the fibrillating baseline is so fine it will appear flat...just to make things a bit more confusing*)

    They're both atrial dysrhythmias, and are basically treated the same (rate control, anti-coagulation, and sometimes cardioversion)
    SusanKathleen, RN likes this.
  8. 0
    Sorry, not to be contrary, but a-flutter is considered a TACHYarrythmia and has a ventricular rate of around 150.

    Just FYI.
  9. 3
    Atrial fib will have many sources of firing from cells in the atria that will be attempting to initiate contraction. (As you know, any cardiac cell can initiate an electrical impulse, in atrial fib numerous cardiac cells are initiating electrical impulses. The big boss, the SA node, is no longer in charge, everybody in the atria is trying to take charge!) That is why there is no contraction of the atria at all, it is just quivering in a kind of state of confusion. The atrial rate can be extremely high. Luckily, the AV node blocks most of these electrical impulses from reaching the ventricles. But what does come through is irregular. Since the atria are no longer contracting as a whole, there is no "atrial kick", (there is no contraction that pushes blood into the ventricles right before the tricuspid and mitral valves close.) So there is a loss in cardiac output. Also, the blood is never really ejected out of the atria and if this goes on for greater than 48 hours, it is very likely that clots have formed. That is why these people are never cardioverted unless they just went into a fib or have been anticoagulated for a good stretch of time. Those clots will get squirted out into the system and cause all sorts of problems.

    Atrial flutter is often a transitional rhythm. In flutter there are only a few cells, 2, 3 or 4, that are initiating electrical impulses besides the SA node. It is a more organized rhythm and often it is more well tolerated than fib because cardiac output is usually not effected quite as severely as in fib (although it is certainly still effected).

    One can compare atrial fib to ventricular fib and atrial flutter to ventricular tachycardia, in that the electrical impulses and what it does to the muscular system as a whole is similar.
  10. 1
    Quote from NurseCherlove
    Sorry, not to be contrary, but a-flutter is considered a TACHYarrythmia and has a ventricular rate of around 150.

    Just FYI.
    I am not trying to be contrary either, but I respectfully disagree. I have seen a-flutter with a ventricular rate of 30 in a patient who was post inferior MI, so a-flutter is not necessarily a tachy anything.

    With a ventricular rate of 150 it is very difficult to tell WHAT rate the patient is actually in, and could be interpreted as anything from SVT to VT.
    sharona97 likes this.
  11. 1
    Quote from Nightcrawler
    I am not trying to be contrary either, but I respectfully disagree. I have seen a-flutter with a ventricular rate of 30 in a patient who was post inferior MI, so a-flutter is not necessarily a tachy anything.

    With a ventricular rate of 150 it is very difficult to tell WHAT rate the patient is actually in, and could be interpreted as anything from SVT to VT.
    I agree. The atrial rate in atrial flutter is always between 280 and 320. Therefore the ventricular rate will depend on the rate of conduction, i.e. 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 etc. The ventricular rate will be a multiple of the atrial rate. For example, if you have an atrial rate of 300 with a 3:1 conduction, the ventricular rate will be around 100. In 2:1 condution, the ventricular rate will higher (150) and in 4:1 condution, the rate will be lower (70-80).
    billythekid likes this.
  12. 2
    Quote from RVMI73
    help..i just want somebody to explain to me in a very clear and thorough explanation regarding atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter..i do have the idea but i want to find a simple english that my friend will understand clearly...pls do reply ASAP...

    Simple answer:

    Atrial flutter is one irritated focus firing rapidly.

    Atrial fibrillation is multiple irritated foci firing rapidly.

    It's way more complicated than that (flutter involves reentrant circuits and such), but this differentiation is a useful base for building knowledge.


    Matt (nursing student, but monitor tech/emt for 6 years)
    Last edit by hypocaffeinemia on Sep 3, '07
    missljo and All_Smiles_RN like this.


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