Tricuspid Valve Disease

The tricuspid valve separates the right upper chamber (atrium) and lower chamber (ventricle) of the heart. Diseases of the tricuspid valve frequently occur with other heart problems. Together, they can cause significant disability and reduced quality of life.

Specialists at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center collaborate to develop individualized treatment approaches for patients with co-occurring heart and valve conditions. With expert care, we relieve your symptoms and prevent future complications.

Tricuspid Valve Disease Care at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center

Patients choose our Comprehensive Heart Valve Program for our:

  • Experience in valve repair and replacement: Our program has more nationally recognized heart valve experts than any other program in the U.S. 
  • Clinical trial participation: We participate in more trials than any heart valve program in Michigan.
  • Custom procedures: Our multidisciplinary teams tailor treatment plans to meet each patients’ preferences and needs.
  • Patient-focused team: Putting patients at the center of care is a core value at Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Types of Tricuspid Valve Disease

There are two types of tricuspid valve disease:

  • Regurgitation: The leaflets of the tricuspid valve do not close properly and blood leaks backward into the right atrium.
  • Stenosis: The leaflets become thick and the valve opening narrows, restricting blood flow.

Tricuspid valve disease may also be congenital (present at birth). Tricuspid atresia is a condition in which a child is born with a solid piece of tissue in place of a valve. It occurs in about one in 10,000 births. In Ebstein anomaly, the valve sits lower in the ventricle. It occurs in about 1 in 200,000 births.

Causes of Tricuspid Valve Disease

Tricuspid valve disease can be caused by:

  • Dilated right ventricle: When the right ventricle dilates (expands), the tricuspid valve’s ringlike base stretches out and the leaflets don’t close. Examples of conditions that cause dilated right ventricle include heart failure, mitral valve disease and coronary artery disease.
  • Infections: Rheumatic fever and infective endocarditis (an infection of the heart lining that can also involve the valves) can damage the leaflets of the tricuspid valve. These diseases can also damage the aortic and mitral valves.
  • Pulmonary hypertension: This is an increase in blood pressure in the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension can lead to increased pressure in the right ventricle and subsequent damage to the tricuspid valve.

Symptoms of Tricuspid Valve Disease

Tricuspid valve disease may go unnoticed for a long period of time. But as the disease advances, patients may develop symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue, a feeling of having no energy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pulsing sensation in the neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the legs or abdomen

Diagnosing Tricuspid Valve Disease

When listening to your heart, your doctor may hear a heart murmur as the first sign of tricuspid valve disease. This characteristic whooshing sound is turbulent blood flowing through the valve.

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor orders an echocardiogram. This test uses ultrasound waves to produce a video of the heart pumping and valves opening and closing. The ultrasound probe may be placed on your chest (transthoracic) or guided down your throat (transesophageal) for a better view. Find out more about cardiovascular diagnostics, including echocardiography.

Treating Tricuspid Valve Disease

Our doctors can often repair a leaking tricuspid valve by reshaping the leaflets or stabilizing the base with a synthetic ring. In patients with tricuspid stenosis, the valve is usually replaced with a mechanical or biological tissue valve.

The traditional approach to treating tricuspid valve disease is open-heart surgery or minimally invasive surgery (thoracotomy). But less invasive techniques are emerging. With these approaches, you spend much less time in the hospital, have less pain and recover faster.

The Frankel Cardiovascular Center participates in several clinical trials to offer patients as many options as possible and improve outcomes. These trials use a transcatheter approachin which the doctor inserts a catheter (thin tube) into a blood vessel in the groin and guides it to the heart. Current trials use transcatheter procedures to repair and replace the tricuspid valve.

Find out more about our clinical trials.

Tricuspid Valve Treatment Combined with Other Heart Procedures

Because tricuspid valve disease frequently occurs along with other heart or valve conditions, doctors often combine treatments. For example, doctors may perform procedures to treat coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy along with tricuspid valve repair or replacement.

People with mitral valve disease often develop tricuspid valve disease. To avoid a second surgery, our doctors may proactively repair a tricuspid valve while repairing a mitral valve.

Make an Appointment

To schedule an evaluation with a Frankel Cardiovascular Center physician, call 888-287-1082. Or visit the Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page to learn what to expect when you call us.

Physicians: To refer a patient, call M-Line at 800-962-3555.