Tricuspid Valve Disease

What is a tricuspid valve disease?


Your tricuspid valve is located between the right atrium and right ventricle of your heart. It regulates the flow of blood from your body into the right ventricle. Deoxygenated blood comes from your body and fills the right atrium. It then passes through your tricuspid valve into the right ventricle, where it is pumped to the lungs to be oxygenated. Your tricuspid valve closes to keep blood from leaking backward when the ventricle contracts.


Learn more about how blood flows through your heart  


What is tricuspid stenosis?


Tricuspid stenosis occurs when your tricuspid valve is narrowed and does not open fully. The tight valve prevents blood from flowing into the right ventricle properly. Because of this, your heart has to work harder in order to pump blood through the smaller valve opening. Over time, this can cause enlargement of the right atrium.


What is tricuspid regurgitation?


Tricuspid regurgitation occurs when your tricuspid valve does not close properly. Blood being pumped forward to the lungs leaks backward into the right atrium. This can cause the right atrium to become enlarged from the extra blood volume. 


What are the common causes for tricuspid valve disease?


Tricuspid valve disease is less common than other types of valve disease. It can be caused by endocarditis, rheumatic fever, pulmonary hypertension, dilated right ventricle, birth defects or tumors of the heart.


What are the symptoms of tricuspid valve disease?


Tricuspid valve disease may be tolerated for a long time before symptoms occur. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation)
  • Fluttering discomfort in the chest and neck
  • With severe disease, you may develop symptoms of heart failure: Shortness of breath, swelling of the legs/abdomen, or cool skin.

How is tricuspid valve disease diagnosed and evaluated?


Valve disease may be detected by your doctor during a routine medical exam. A heart murmur is the sound of blood flowing across an abnormal heart valve. A heart murmur may be the first clinical sign of valve disease if you have no symptoms. Your doctor may order an echocardiogram (an external ultrasound of your heart) to look at your heart valves.

  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram or “echo” uses sound waves to create a picture of your heart. It shows the different structures of the heart and can show any abnormalities in your valves. There are two kinds of echocardiograms. Your doctors will determine which test is needed to get the best view of your heart valves. Learn more about echocardiograms
    • Transthoracic echocardiograms (TTE): A TTE is done using an ultrasound probe held against the chest and is noninvasive.
    • Transesophageal echocardiograms (TEE): A TEE is done by passing an ultrasound probe down the esophagus to get a close up view of your heart. This test is more invasive.

If your doctor notices an irregular heartbeat, they may order an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to assess for an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.


What are the treatment options?

  • Non-surgical treatment optionsDepending on the severity, treatment with medications may be successful in managing your valve disease. Medications can be helpful in treating your symptoms, however they will not prevent or reverse the disease. It is important to keep close follow up with your heart doctor. This includes regular appointments, living a healthy lifestyle, and taking the medications to help your heart. You will likely have routine echocardiograms to monitor the progression of the disease. 
  • Surgical treatment options: If your tricuspid valve disease becomes severe and medications alone are no longer effective, tricuspid valve surgery may be necessary. This is a surgical procedure where your tricuspid valve is repaired or replaced by a properly functioning valve. Tricuspid valve repair is preferred over replacement whenever possible.