The tricuspid valve regulates blood flow from the heart’s upper right chamber (right atrium) to the lower right chamber (right ventricle). The valve’s role is to ensure blood flows in a forward direction from the right atrium to the ventricle. Any abnormal function of the tricuspid valve is known as tricuspid valve disease.
While fairly rare, diseases of the tricuspid valve include:
- Tricuspid regurgitation: The valve is leaky or does not close sufficiently, which allows blood to leak back into the right atrium.
- Tricuspid stenosis: The leaflets of the valve are stiff and restrict the proper amount of blood to flow through. This can be diagnosed with an echocardiogram or cardiac catheterization, which captures the movement of the valve and allows for measurements to be taken to assess for function and performance.
- Tricuspid atresia: A congenital condition, present at birth, where a solid wall of tissue blocks the blood flowing from the right atrium to the right ventricle.
- Ebstein's anomaly: Occurs when a malformed tricuspid valve sits lower than normal in the right ventricle. This allows blood to flow back into the right atrium (tricuspid regurgitation).
Causes of Tricuspid Valve Disease
Rheumatic fever is the most common cause of tricuspid valve disease, especially tricuspid stenosis. Other causes include:
- Congenital heart problems
- Heart attack or coronary heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Endocarditis (heart infection or inflammation)
- Trauma to the heart
- Tumors (this is rare)
Symptoms of Tricuspid Valve Disease
Often, a patient has no symptoms associated with tricuspid valve disease; however, symptoms may include:Heart arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation)
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue, especially during physical activity
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal fullness
- Swelling in the legs or abdomen
- Changes in skin color
Treatment varies, depending on a patient’s condition. If the condition is mild, a patient will be monitored to determine treatment as needed.
As symptoms progress, treatment may include certain medications, such as diuretics, which promote urination and the release of excess fluids, and vasodilators, to help open blood vessels.
If a patient’s condition is severe, surgery to repair or replace the damaged valve may be required.
Make an Appointment
To schedule an appointment to discuss your tricuspid valve disease or other cardiovascular condition, call us at 888-287-1082 or email us at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu. Visit our Make an Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call us.