Based on multiple studies, clear, guided anticoagulation therapy is recommended for patients with atrial fibrillation. The value of anticoagulation therapy in patients with atrial flutter, however, is less well established. Little is known about the incidence of thromboembolism in patients with atrial flutter. We evaluated the risk of thromboembolism in 191 consecutive unselected patients referred for treatment of atrial flutter. A history of embolic events was noted in 11 patients. Acute embolism (<48 hours) occurred in 4 patients (3 after direct current cardioversion, 1 after catheter ablation). During follow-up of 26+/-18 months, 9 patients experienced thromboembolic events. During the follow-up, the overall embolic event rate (including acute embolism and thromboembolic events during follow-up) was 7 % in this patient population. Risk indicators for an embolic event in an univariate analysis were organic heart disease (p = 0.037), depressed left ventricular function (p = 0.02), history of systemic hypertension (p = 0.004), and diabetes mellitus (p = 0.0038). Using multivariate analysis, a history of hypertension was the only independent predictor for elevated embolic risk in this patient population (odds ratio = 6.5; 95% confidence intervals 1.5 to 45). Thus, the thromboembolic risk is higher than previously recognized for patients with atrial flutter. Anticoagulation therapy may decrease this risk.