Problem: Tricuspid Valve Regurgitation

Updated:Aug 26,2015
1 What's the problem?orange stethescope

nurse talking to patientWhat is tricuspid valve regurgitation?
Tricuspid regurgitation is leakage of blood backwards through the tricuspid valve each time the right ventricle contracts.

What happens during tricuspid regurgitation?
As the right ventricle contracts to pump blood forward to the lungs, some blood leaks backward into the right atrium, increasing the volume of blood in the atrium. As a result, the right atrium can enlarge, which can change the pressure in the nearby chambers and blood vessels.

What causes tricuspid regurgitation?
Tricuspid regurgitation usually results from an enlarged lower heart chamber (called the ventricle) or from any other condition that strains the blood flow to the lungs.

Sometimes long-standing disorders, such as emphysema or pulmonary stenosis can cause problems that affect the tricuspid valve which is “upstream” from the lungs. 

To compensate, the right ventricle enlarges so that it can pump harder, which sometimes causes the tricuspid opening to become stretched out and floppy.

Other diseases may also affect the tricuspid regurgitation, most commonly infective endocarditis (valve infection), and less commonly, marfan syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, injury, and carcinoid tumors, and myxomatous degeneration (disorder where the valve tissue becomes floppy with growths).

An important risk for tricuspid regurgitation is the use of the diet substance called “Fen-Phen” (phentermine and fenfluramine) or dexfenfluramine.

What are the symptoms of tricuspid valve regurgitation?
Tricuspid regurgitation may not have any symptoms or the symptoms be vague, such as weakness and fatigue, which develop because the heart is not pumping enough blood to allow the body to receive the needed oxygen.

Other symptoms may include:
  • Active pulsing in the neck veins
  • Reduced urinary output
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, and/or feet

Treatment options may include:
Treatment may not be required if the symptoms are not bothersome. Any underlying disorder, such as emphysema or pulmonary stenosis, should be treated when possible and symptoms such as swelling can be managed with diuretics.

Surgical valve repair or valve replacement usually cures the condition, but those with untreated, severe tricuspid regurgitation may face a poor prognosis, either from the valve disease itself or else because of the complications from the underlying condition causing the valve problem.

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This content was last reviewed on 02/18/13.

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