What is tricuspid valve disease?
Tricuspid valve disease happens due to an impairment of the function of the heart’s valves. In particular, the valve between the two right heart chambers (right ventricle and right atrium) doesn’t function properly.
Tricuspid valve disease often occurs in conjunction with other heart valve problems.
In severe cases, surgical repair or replacement of the valve is needed to relieve symptoms.
There are several types of tricuspid valve disease, including:
Tricuspid valve regurgitation
In tricuspid valve regurgitation, the tricuspid valve doesn’t close properly, and blood flows back into your heart’s upper right chamber (right atrium).
In this congenital defect — a condition present at birth — the tricuspid valve isn’t formed properly. And a solid sheet of tissue blocks the blood flow between the right heart chambers.
Ebstein’s anomaly is another congenital heart defect. With this condition, a malformed tricuspid valve sits lower than normal in the right ventricle. This can cause blood to flow back into the right atrium (tricuspid valve regurgitation).
Tricuspid valve stenosis
In tricuspid valve stenosis, the narrowing of the tricuspid valve disrupts blood flow. This decreases the amount of blood that flows from the right atrium to the lower right heart chamber (right ventricle).
Signs and Symptoms of Tricuspid Valve Disease
Tricuspid valve disease symptoms often do not appear until the condition has become severe. The common symptoms are:
- Irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation)
- Easily tired (fatigue)
- A fluttering discomfort in the neck
- With severe disease, heart failure symptoms (abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling in the belly, legs, or ankles)
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When Should I See My Doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Because symptoms do not always appear until the condition has become severe, regular check ups with your doctor are crucial. Your doctor may detect this condition as a heart murmur, or may spot the condition in an echocardiogram, an ultrasound imaging of the heart.
What Causes Tricuspid Valve Disease?
There are a number of causes for tricuspid valve disease. These range from complications that arise from other conditions to congenital defects:
- Infection, such as rheumatic fever or infective endocarditis
- A dilated right ventricle, causing the annulus (a ring of tough fibrous tissue which is attached to and supports the leaflets of the valve) of the tricuspid valve to enlarge
- Increased pressure through the tricuspid valve (seen with pulmonary hypertension)
- Less common causes include congenital defects, trauma, carcinoid heart disease, tumor, tricuspid valve prolapse, Ebstein’s anomaly, systemic lupus, and trauma.
How is Tricuspid Valve Disease Diagnosed?
Tricuspid valve disease is often first diagnosed during a physical exam. The doctor will often hear a murmur (abnormal blood flow through the valve). Other signs your doctor may find are an irregular pulse and a fluttering or abnormal pulsation in your neck (jugular vein).
To find out more, your doctor may request for a number of tests to be performed. Tests used to diagnose valve disease may include:
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac Catheterization
- Radionuclide scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
How Is Tricuspid Valve Disease Treated?
Once this condition is diagnosed, your doctor will want to monitor the progress of your valve disease with regular appointments. These may be once a year, or they may be more often, if your doctor feels your condition needs to be observed more closely.
Your appointment will include a medical exam. Diagnostic studies may be repeated at regular intervals.
Your physician may prescribe medications to treat your symptoms. These medications may include drugs to treat heart failure or medications to control irregular heart rhythms.
When valve disease is severe, it may be necessary to repair or replace the diseased valve.
Tricuspid valve repair using an annuloplasty ring is the preferred surgical approach for tricuspid regurgitation and may be performed for primary tricuspid disease or for combined cases with other valve surgery (mitral, aortic).
When the valve can not be repaired, a valve replacement will be performed.
If you have tricuspid valve disease, you are at risk for getting endocarditis, an infection that causes damage to the heart valves (even if your valve has been repaired or replaced with surgery). You will need to follow these guidelines:
- Tell your doctors and dentist you have valve disease. You may want to carry a card with this information.
- Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection (sore throat, general body achiness, and fever). Colds and flus do not cause endocarditis. But, infections, which may have the same symptoms, do. So, to be safe, call your doctor.
- Take good care of your teeth and gums to prevent infections. See your dentist for regular visits.
- Take antibiotics before you undergo any procedure that may cause bleeding.
Learn more about heart valve disease, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.