Encyclopedia Home / A / Atrial fibrillation/flutter

Atrial fibrillation/flutter

  • Alternative Names

    Auricular fibrillation; A-fib


    You may not be aware that your heart is not beating in a normal pattern, especially if it has been happening for some time.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Pulse that feels rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering, irregular, or too slow
    • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
    • Shortness of breath
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness, light-headedness
    • Fainting
    • Fatigue
    • Loss of ability to exercise

    Note: Symptoms may begin or stop suddenly. This is because atrial fibrillation may stop or start on its own.

    Signs and tests

    The health care provider may hear a fast heartbeat while listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Your pulse may feel fast, irregular, or both.

    The normal heart rate is 60 - 100, but in atrial fibrillation/flutter the heart rate may be 100 - 175. Blood pressure may be normal or low.

    An ECG -- a test that records the electrical activity of the heart -- may show atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.

    You may need to wear a special monitor that records the heart's rhythms, called a Holter monitor (24-hour test) if your abnormal heart rhythm comes and goes.

    Tests to find heart diseases may include:

    • Exercise stress test
    • Test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart
    • Test to look more closely at the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle
    • Tests to study the heart's electrical system