What’s the problem?
Pulmonary regurgitation (PR, also called pulmonic regurgitation) is a leaky pulmonary valve. This valve helps control the flow of blood passing from the heart to the lungs. A leaky pulmonary valve allows blood to flow back into the heart chamber before it gets to the lungs for oxygen.
What causes pulmonary regurgitation?
The most common causes for a leaky pulmonary valve is pulmonary hypertension or a congenital heart defect (most specifically, a defect called tetralogy of Fallot).
Less common causes are:
- Infective endocarditis
- Complications after surgery to repair tetralogy of Fallot
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Rheumatic fever and complications after catheterization are rare causes in the United States
What are the symptoms of pulmonary regurgitation?
With this particular valve condition, there are usually no early symptoms that would be noticed by the patient. Signs that can be detected in a medical exam include a certain type of murmur heard when the heart is between heart beats.
Eventually, whether due to the valve problem or the pulmonary hypertension that may have caused the valve problem, the lower right chamber of the heart can become enlarged. Rarely, these conditions can progress to heart failure which can create more noticeable symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, fatigue, lightheadedness or fainting.
How is pulmonary regurgitation treated?
Treatment for PR is usually focused on the underlying cause that created the valve problem (i.e. pulmonary hypertension). The need to replace the pulmonary valve is very rare.
Jen was born with tetralogy of Fallot, and ultimately had valve replacement surgery for her pulmonary valve. Watch Jen share her story:
This content was last reviewed May 2016.