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What is tricuspid valve regurgitation?

Tricuspid valve regurgitation, also known as tricuspid valve insufficiency, occurs when the valve does not close properly, causing some blood to flow backward into the heart's right upper chamber (atrium) and increasing the amount of blood there. This impairs the heart's ability to pump the necessary amount of blood to the rest of the body. 

If the atrium enlarges so that it can pump harder, it puts pressure on the left atrium, the right and left ventricles (lower chambers) and blood vessels. Treating the underlying conditions that lead to tricuspid valve regurgitation may correct the valve disorder. However, severe regurgitation may require surgical treatment to repair or replace the tricuspid valve.

Symptoms

Tricuspid regurgitation may be asymptomatic (no symptoms) or symptoms may be generalized (weakness, fatigue) and develop because the heart can’t pump enough oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pulsing neck veins
  • Reduced urine
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles and/or feet

Causes

Common causes include:

  • Enlarged ventricle
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Pulmonary stenosis
  • Emphysema
  • Infective endocarditis (valve infection)

Less common causes include:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Injury
  • Carcinoid tumors
  • Myxomatous degeneration (a disorder that causes valve tissue to become floppy)
  • Any condition that constrains blood flow to the lungs

Diagnosis

In addition to listening to your heart with a stethoscope, a physician may prescribe any of the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiagram
  • CT scan
  • Cardiac catheterization

Treatments

Very often, medication is used to treat valvular disease. If your condition is asymptomatic, your doctor may recommend evaluation to manage the disease. However, surgical procedures can be required. Heart valve surgery has become an established and effective treatment for heart valve disease. The following procedures are available for treatment:

Minimally invasive:

  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
  • Valve repair and/or replacement

Traditional cardiac surgery:

  • Valve repair surgery
  • Valve replacement surgery (for patients who are not candidates for valve repair)
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