Your blood passes through valves as it flows between the four chambers of your heart. The valves open to allow blood to pass through and close to keep blood from flowing backward. The tricuspid valve separates your lower heart chamber (right ventricle) from the upper heart chamber (right atrium) on the right side of your heart.
Tricuspid regurgitation (leakage) is a valve disorder that occurs when the tricuspid valve doesn’t close properly. Blood flows back into the right atrium whenever the right ventricle contracts to pump blood forward into your lungs. When some of this blood leaks backward, blood volume rises. This can affect the pressure in nearby chambers and blood vessels.
Causes of Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
The most common cause of tricuspid valve regurgitation is an enlarged lower heart chamber (right ventricle). The ventricle changes since it has to work increasingly hard to pump blood to your lungs to pick up oxygen. Related conditions that can lead to tricuspid valve disease include:
- Lung conditions, such as high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), clots or other lung problems
- Other valve and heart conditions
- Marfan syndrome (connective tissue disorder affecting heart and blood vessels)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rheumatic fever
- Carcinoid tumors (rare, slow-growing cancer of the digestive tract or lungs)
- Myxomatous degeneration (connective tissue disorder that weakens heart tissue)
- Past use of “Fen-Phen” (phentermine and fenfluramine) or dexfenfluramine diet pills, which are no longer marketed in the U.S.
Symptoms of Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
Tricuspid valve regurgitation may not have any symptoms at all. Sometimes, symptoms may be subtle, such as feeling tired when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood to give your body the oxygen it needs.
Symptoms may also include:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Active pulsing in the veins of your neck
- Abdominal swelling
- Swelling in your legs, ankles or feet
- Enlarged liver
Diagnosis of Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
Your doctor will perform various tests to assess your heart valves and overall condition to diagnose tricuspid valve regurgitation. They will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to detect abnormalities, such as irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) or heart murmur (unusual sounds caused by blood flow problems). Advanced testing may include an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), cardiac MRI, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), chest X-rays or other imaging tests.
Treatment of Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation
If symptoms are mild, you may not require treatment for tricuspid valve regurgitation. Your doctors will evaluate your condition and treat any related disorders, such as emphysema (lung disease) or pulmonary stenosis (restricted blood flow through the valve between your heart and lungs).
Your doctor may prescribe medical therapies to manage any symptoms, including diuretics for swelling. Your treatment plan may include surgical valve repair or valve replacement. When possible, your surgeon will use minimally invasive surgical procedures, which are less invasive than general surgery. For certain, more complex conditions, surgeons may perform a combination of procedures in advanced, hybrid surgical suites.
At Orlando Health Heart Valve Center, our team will evaluate your condition, collaborate across disciplines as needed, and develop the right treatment plan for you.
To contact us or schedule an appointment, call 321.841.4324.