What Is Tricuspid Regurgitation?
In order to understand tricuspid regurgitation, it helps to
understand a little about the anatomy of your heart.
Your heart is divided into four sections called “chambers.” The
upper chambers are the left atrium and right atrium, and the lower chambers are
the left ventricle and right ventricle. There is a wall of muscle called the
“septum” that separates the right and left sides of the heart.
The upper (atria) and lower (ventricles) chambers are connected. There
are openings called “valves” that regulate blood flow both in and out of the
heart and between the chambers. The valves can be thought of like water faucets;
they either open up and allow blood to flow freely, or close and stop the flow
Your tricuspid valve is the valve that separates your right
atrium and right ventricle. Tricuspid regurgitation occurs when this valve
doesn’t properly close, causing blood to flow back up into the right atrium
when the right ventricle contracts. Over time, this condition can weaken your
Tricuspid regurgitation is also known as “tricuspid valve
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Tricuspid Regurgitation
Tricuspid regurgitation may not cause any recognizable symptoms
at first. You are more likely to experience symptoms if you also have pulmonary
hypertension or high blood pressure.
Some symptoms of tricuspid regurgitation include:
- abdominal swelling
- decreased urine output
- foot and ankle swelling
- general weakness
- an irregular heart rhythm
- swelling in the body
- pulsing in your neck vein
- unexplained fatigue
What Causes Tricuspid Regurgitation?
Right Ventricle Dilation
The most common cause of tricuspid regurgitation is right
ventricle dilation. The right ventricle (the lower right-hand chamber) is
responsible for pumping blood from your heart to your lungs. When the right
ventricle is forced to work extra hard at this task, it can dilate (or become
larger) to compensate. This can cause the ring of tissue that supports the
tricuspid valve’s ability to open and close to dilate as well.
The enlargement can be a complication of many different
Infections can directly injure the tricuspid
valve, eventually leading to tricuspid regurgitation. The most common of
these infections is infective endocarditis.
Diet Medication Use
Diet medications phentermine
and fenfluramine — also known as “Fen-Phen”
— have also been linked to tricuspid regurgitation. These drugs, however, are
now off the market and are no longer a common cause of tricuspid regurgitation.
There are other possible causes of tricuspid regurgitation, although
they are all fairly rare. They include:
- certain injuries
- carcinoid tumors
- systemic lupus
- birth defects of the valve
- Ebstein’s anomaly (a congenital heart disease)
- tricuspid valve prolapse
- myxomatous degeneration
- Marfan’s syndrome
- rheumatic fever
- rheumatoid arthritis
How Is Tricuspid Regurgitation Diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect you have tricuspid regurgitation if you
are experiencing symptoms or if you have other diseases known to lead to the
During your appointment, your doctor will begin with a physical
examination. Your doctor will also listen to your heart for the presence of a
heart murmur. This abnormal heart sound can indicate that blood is flowing
backward from the heart valve.
After listening to your heart, your doctor may order some
diagnostic tests. These can help to visualize your heart’s valves. You may need
to undergo tests such as:
Treatment Options for Tricuspid Regurgitation
Tricuspid regurgitation does not always need treatment. If your condition
is not severe, your doctor may only recommend that you monitor your heart
health at regular intervals to make sure the condition doesn’t progress.
Your doctor may prescribe a medication if you have an irregular
heartbeat. Tricuspid regurgitation due to heart failure may be treated with
medications that strengthen your heartbeat. Swelling can be treated with
diuretics to promote the loss of fluids.
It may help to treat any underlying medical conditions, such as
high blood pressure, to reduce the symptoms associated with tricuspid regurgitation.
In some instances, tricuspid regurgitation will require surgical
repair. Surgeons also can replace the tricuspid valve.
Potential Long-Term Complications
If left untreated, tricuspid regurgitation can increase your risk
of heart failure. It may also lead to weight loss, appetite loss, and cirrhosis
of the liver.
Those with tricuspid regurgitation are at a greater risk for
endocarditis, an infection of the heart.
Preventing Tricuspid Regurgitation
If you have a problem with your tricuspid valve, it’s important
to take steps to reduce your risk of endocarditis. You should:
- take good care of your teeth and gums
- tell all your doctors and dentists that you have
a valve disease
- take antibiotics to prevent infection before any
invasive medical procedure or dental work
- alert your doctor if you experience symptoms of
an infection, such as fever, sore throat, and body aches
Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms of
tricuspid regurgitation so you can help keep your heart healthy.