Conditions and diseases

Atrial fibrillation and flutter

Symptoms and causes

Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Fibrillation is chaotic electrical activity in the atria of the heart, with a frequency of 350 to 450 vibrations per minute. As a result, the passage to the chambers is irregular and usually accelerated.

Atrial flutter is accelerated electrical activity in the atrium at a frequency of 250 to 350 vibrations per minute. The transit to the chambers is also sped up, but it is regular.

The atrium flutter is very similar to atrium fibrillation, and both arrhythmias can merge into one another.


Atrial fibrillation and flutter cause symptoms such as:

  • heart palpitations
  • reduced exertion due to shortness of breath or chest pain
  • dizziness or even fainting
  • fatigue


There is a risk of heart weakness. In addition, clots can form in the ventricles which, if carried along, cause embolisms in the brain or elsewhere.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and treatment

The arrhythmia can be short and recurrent, but afterwards it can be long to persistent. Sometimes, it can only be stopped by medical intervention (medication or shock). If medication cannot suppress the symptoms, an ablation of the arrhythmia by a cardiologist is an option. Finally, surgery can also fix the arrhythmia.

  • Paroxysmal means that atrial fibrillation takes up to 24 hours. These are attacks of atrial fibrillation, interspersed with periods of normal sinus rhythm.
  • Permanent means that the arrhythmia no longer disappears spontaneously.

To remedy or prevent atrial fibrillation and flutter, medication, cardioversion, ablation or maze surgery may be used.

Latest publication date: 15/05/2024