Adams-Stokes Disease, also called Stokes-Adams disease, refers to a heart block that can slow the heart rate considerably, causing fainting (syncope) or convulsions. It’s caused when the heart’s electrical signals are interrupted as they pass from the upper (atria) to the lower (ventricles) chambers.
Atrial flutter occurs when rapidly firing electrical signals cause the muscles in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) to contract quickly. This leads to a steady, but overly fast, heartbeat.
Someone with atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) can also have atrial flutter. But it’s also possible to have atrial flutter without another arrhythmia.
Symptoms of atrial flutter
Atrial flutter may reveal itself in heart palpitations or a heartbeat that’s irregular or overly fast. Other symptoms of atrial flutter include:
- Fast, steady pulse
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting (syncope)
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heart rhythm combined with AFib
If you experience these symptoms and think you may be suffering from atrial flutter, contact your doctor immediately.
Comorbidities of atrial flutter
People who experience atrial flutter often have other conditions as well, including:
- Heart failure
- Previous heart attack
- Open-heart (bypass) surgery
- Other recent surgery
- Valve abnormalities or congenital defects
- High blood pressure
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Alcoholism (especially binge drinking)
- Chronic lung disease
- Other serious illness
Sick sinus syndrome
When the sinus (or sinoatrial, or SA) node doesn’t fire its electrical signals properly, the heart rate slows down. This is referred to as sick sinus syndrome.
Common in children, this type of irregular heart rhythm refers to changes in the heart rate during breathing. The heart rate speeds up for a few beats during inhalation and slows down during exhalation. Sinus arrhythmia is normal.
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)
In this disorder, the electrical pathways between the heart’s upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) chambers – sometimes called accessory pathways – malfunction. This allows electrical signals to reach the ventricles prematurely. Those electrical impulses can then be “bounced back” to the atria.
This ricocheting of electrical signals can produce overly fast heart rates. Other people with WPW may not experience any overt symptoms, but still face serious risk.
Some people with WPW also have atrial fibrillation.
Diagnosis and treatment
Your doctor can detect Wolfe-Parkinson-White Syndrome through a routine exam known as an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). This noninvasive diagnostic test will reveal any irregularities in your heart rhythm.
Post-diagnosis, your doctor can recommend next steps. Your treatment plan will depend on several factors, including your risk of future arrhythmias as well as the frequency and severity of your symptoms. People who don’t experience symptoms may not require treatment.
Possible treatment options for WPW include:
Ablation is the most common treatment for WPW. It has a high success rate and a low risk of complications.