In a heart that functions normally, blood flows between the various chambers through valves that open and close in such a way that it keeps the blood flowing in the right direction. When these valves fail to operate properly, it can cause blood to flow backward into places it has already been.
Tricuspid valve regurgitation is a type of tricuspid valve disease that results in exactly this. The tricuspid valve, which sits between the right chambers of the heart, does not close all the way, allowing blood to flow back into the right atrium instead of keeping it in the right ventricle.
There are several conditions that may cause tricuspid valve regurgitation. It usually happens when the right ventricle is dilated and prevents the valve from closing completely. This may be the result of heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, or cardiomyopathy. Regurgitation can also happen when the valve sits lower than normal, has been damaged by an infection or implantable device wires, or the patient has suffered blunt trauma to the chest.
Tricuspid valve regurgitation does not often create symptoms until the disease becomes severe.
Tricuspid valve regurgitation can have several different causes. Valve problems leading to Carcinoid syndrome, blunt chest trauma, radiation, rheumatic fever, Ebstein’s anomaly, or ineffective endocarditis (one of the most common causes) could all lead to tricuspid valve regurgitation. Other things that could cause it are endomyocardial biopsies, Marfan syndrome, and implantable device wires.
Certain risk factors can increase your risk of getting the condition, such as heart disease, congenital heart disease, heart failure, infections, heart attack, pulmonary hypertension, certain medications used to treat restless leg syndrome (like pergolide), and radiation therapy. Some of these medications are no longer sold in the United States because of the increased risk of certain medical conditions.
Tricuspid valve regurgitation can also result from injury and myxomatous degeneration, but these are less common causes.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the disease as well as the patient’s symptoms. The goal is to prevent potential complications, alleviate symptoms, and extend life expectancy.
Depending on circumstances, this may involve frequent monitoring and various medications. Surgery to repair or replace the defective valve is generally only required for the most severe cases.
While you cannot prevent tricuspid regurgitation, you can lower your risk of complications associated with this condition (like atrial fibrillation) or endocarditis. Make sure to take care of your gums and teeth, exercise regularly, eat a heart-healthy diet, and see your doctor on a regular basis.
If you’re already living with tricuspid valve regurgitation, you should take any medications your doctor prescribes. Your doctor might also recommend an appropriate exercise regimen and tell you how frequently you’ll need to do the exercises.
Being aware of the symptoms can help you avoid any further complications of tricuspid valve regurgitation. If you experience symptoms such as active pulsing in your neck, swelling in your legs, veins or abdomen, fatigue and/or shortness of breath during physical activity, you should consult your doctor immediately. Also look out for abnormal heart rhythms, decreased urine production, an enlarged liver and/or a diminished ability to exercise.
You can also prevent the condition from worsening by taking antibiotics to prevent any infections before you have certain medical procedures.