Atrial flutter in infancy: Diagnosis, clinical features, and treatment

Ann Dunnigan, W. Benson, David G Benditt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The clinical features and treatment of atrial flutter in eight infants (four male and four female) less than 2 months of age are presented. Atrial flutter was noted during the first week of life in six of the infants and between 6 and 8 weeks of life in the other two infants. Four of the eight infants had associated structural or functional cardiovascular disease, and in three infants a central venous pressure catheter was present in the atrium at the time atrial flutter was diagnosed. Classic flutter waves were apparent on 12-lead ECGs in only two infants. In six infants, flutter waves were not obvious on standard ECGs, but transesophageal electrogram recordings demonstrated the presence of atrial flutter with second degree atrioventricular block. The atrial cycle length during flutter ranged from 135 to 180 ms (mean 149 ms; mean atrial rate 403 beats per minute); there was a 2:1 ventricular response to atrial flutter. Successful termination of atrial flutter was accomplished using three modes of electrical cardioversion in seven of the eight infants: direct curent cardioversion in one, transvenous atrial pacing in one, and transesophageal atrial pacing in five. One asymptomatic infant converted to normal sinus rhythm 24 hours following digoxin administration. One infant had multiple atrial flutter recurrences and required chronic procainamide therapy. In seven of the eight infants, no recurrences have been noted in 6 months to 3 1/2 years follow-up. These results demonstrate that atrial flutter may be difficult to diagnose in infants with tachycardia unless transesophageal electrogram recording is utilized for evaluation. In these eight infants, atrial flutter was frequently associated with underlying cardiac disease and/or the presence of central venous pressure catheters in the atrium. Acute treatment with electrical conversion was sufficient in most infants; only one infant required chronic drug therapy to prevent recurrences of atrial flutter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-729
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1985


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