Ablation for atrial flutter vs fibrillation

The day my mother passed away two weeks ago, overwhelming grief knocked me into atrial flutter for 9 days straight, having been in sinus rhythm for the past 3 years. My cardiologist recommended I get an ablation for the flutter alone.

The ablation procedure for atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation are different, with higher success rates and lower risks of complications when ablation is performed for flutter than when it is performed for fibrillation. Apparently, in some cases addressing flutter can actually reduce one's propensity for atrial fibrillation - since atrial flutter can be a precursor to fibrillation.

Has anyone here had an ablation for flutter, but not fibrillation? Did you find addressing your flutter helped reduce your episodes of atrial fibrillation?

16 Replies

  • Hi Thomps,I was diagnosed with A_flutter in March 2013 and had the ablation done at Blackpool hospital in August that year.The procedure took about 2hrs as they had 3 attempts before they got it.they don,t put you out just give you a sedative to relax you but I still fell asleep and to me it seemed to be over in no time,no pain no nothing.I was let home the following day and touch wood have been fine since.Just to let you know I was also diagnosed with an irregular heart beat at the same time as the A_flutter and had a pacemaker fit in June before the ablation.I now walk 3 to 4 miles nearly every day and feel fine..Hope this helps in some way all the best.

  • So sorry about your sad loss and the way it affected you.

    My first ablation was just for flutter and you are right it is said to have lower risk than AF ablation. For one reason they do not have to make a transeptial puncture as flutter affects the right atrium which is where the catheter first enters your heart.

    Sadly for me it did not solve my AF and I went on to have 4 AF ablations and a second flutter ablation.

    We are all different however and for sure my experience is not typical.

    All well at present been in Sinus Rhythm for nearly 3 weeks now all all feel steady.


  • Thomps95, I had an ablation for flutter four years ago. The procedure was simple with no recovery time. It's great because you are in and out in one day. The procedure was successful with no more flutter ; however my EP said he was able to create fibulation and I had to be cardioverted on the table. My EP suggested I stay on Flecanaide but I decided to stop medicine and see how I do. I made it six months without an episode so now am scheduled for a Cryoablation in two weeks. Hope this helps, Gracey

  • Sorry to hear about your loss Thomps95 and the resultant Flutter. My AF started in a very emotional year for me 2008 which included the death of my mother. I can't answer your question as have no experience but would emphasise for others (as I know that you are already on it) that due to our friend the Vagus Nerve mind calming exercises before during or after emotional times can help and maybe did for you as well stopping you going into full AF.

    Good luck with your choice and please keep us informed.

  • So sorry for your heart-wrenching loss, Thomps95. I hope both heart problems are resolved soon. There's certainly no doubt our emotional state plays an enormous role in the symptoms, and surely cause, of AF. Just before my first ablation, I was told my AF had advanced to include flutter by then, but the ablation for the AF took care of both for 18 months. After a second ablation, I still occasionally experience what I would describe as flutter (especially on waking) without the more erratic AF of before ablation. Without an EKG, don't know what a doc would call it, but it's different than what they called the persistent, then paroxysmal, AF I was in before ablations. Not sure how this relates to your experience, but just thought I'd throw it out there. Be well, friend.

  • I am so very sorry to hear your sad news. Please accept my condolences at this very sad and difficult time.

    My very first ablation was for a bad flutter and it was very successful. I was told afterwards that I had complex atrial fibrillation and would need to have ablation for these. I felt so much better after the ablation for flutter that I settled for 100 mg Flecainide twice daily and all was well for a number of years when AF kicked in with a vengeance. The flutter never returned even after 3 further ablations for AF. Good luck and do let us know how you get on. Anne

  • Could somebody tell me what the symptoms are for flutter please.

  • I'm no expert but I suspect the experience of symptoms varies. For some, it might feel like a rapid heart rate that is not very effective - so you get out of breath with the smallest of exertion. In my case, my heart rate was around normal but I felt light headed and my heart just didn't feel right - I sensed a lot of missed beats, and was not able to do much without getting out of breath. Trying to ride a bicycle up a hill really wasn't possible. If you look at an ECG (in Kardia on the iPhone), you see a lot of atrial activity (smaller bumps about 4-5 times for every ventricular impulse - the pointy, taller impulse that we sense as a "beat"). The (ventricular) beats look fairly regular, unlike atrial fibrillation where the ventricular contractions look random.

  • Is this just a short burst or does it continue for some time?

  • In my case, it lasted a long time - on and off for nine days. But I think very short bursts of tachycardia - palpitations - are fairly common and not a huge concern. Transient bursts of rapid heart beats can be triggered by digestive processes, anxiety, caffeine, etc. and that happens in people who do not have atrial flutter.

  • Tachycardia.

  • Tachycardia in a 3-6 second burst being different from Flutter??? I ask because I get a 3-6 second burst of something which takes my breath away. It has not been caught on ECG. I have had 2 ablations for PAF. It's just annoying because there is no warning and Nebivolol only takes the edge off of it. Frequency, maybe 2 episodes per month that is noticeable. I know that their is an increase in speed but I believe it is still NSR.

  • Tachycardia just means rapid heart rate, so it is not necessarily flutter (there might be other reasons your heart is racing). Flutter does often involve rapid heart rate, but relates to improper function of the atrium

  • By tachycardia I meant a sustained high pulse. My flutter started at 120 beats per minute and stabilized at 150. I understand it can go higher than that.

  • I'll approach this sequentially.

    2013: In May I went into flutter as the result of pushing while on the latrine out in the wilds of northern Minnesota (not that the location is relevant, but it makes a good story). Throughout the rest of the year I had occasional bouts of flutter and what might have been fibrillation.

    2014: In April I had an ablation to stop it once and for all. It worked great. Dr Cardio said I had a 25% chance of developing AF, which is of course what happened later in the year. It was mild and intermittent, but also limiting.

    2015: In May I had a cryoablation that completely eliminated the AF.

    I can't answer your final question but maybe this is useful.

  • Inspiring story, and an important reminder that the wilds of northern Minnesota can be inherently constipating, so take plenty of laxatives.

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