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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Nov 15;30(6):1506-11.

Thromboembolism in chronic atrial flutter: is the risk underestimated?

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Division of Cardiology, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA.



We sought to evaluate the risk of thromboembolic events in the presence of chronic atrial flutter and to determine the impact of anticoagulation therapy, if any, on this risk.


Thromboembolic events are thought to be rare after cardioversion of atrial flutter.


This study was a retrospective analysis of 110 consecutive patients referred to the electrophysiology laboratory for cardioversion of chronic atrial flutter from 1986 to 1996. Atrial flutter was present for at least 6 months. Of the 110 patients reviewed, 100 had adequate information available regarding the effectiveness of anticoagulation (mean age 64 years, range 27 to 86; 75 men, 25 women; mean left ventricular ejection fraction 42%).


Thirteen patients (13%) had a thromboembolic event. Of these, seven were attributable to causes other than atrial flutter. In the remaining six patients (6%), thromboembolic events occurred during a rhythm of atrial flutter or after cardioversion to sinus rhythm. Other causes of thromboembolism were excluded. Effective anticoagulation was associated with a decreased risk of thromboembolism (p = 0.026).


Patients with chronic atrial flutter are at an increased risk of thromboembolic events. Effective anticoagulation may decrease this risk.

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