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What is the Tricuspid Valve?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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The tricuspid valve is one of the valves of the heart, positioned in the top chamber. The function of the tricuspid valve is to ensure that blood flows in the correct direction to the ventricle. Sometimes, the tricuspid valve may be the source of abnormality or disease. Tricuspid valve disease usually produces symptoms, but long passages of time may occur when the patient is asymptomatic.

Typically, tricuspid valve disease causes an irregular heartbeat. This abnormal rhythm is referred to as atrial fibrillation. This condition generally produces symptoms that include fatigue and a fluttering sensation in the area of the upper chest and neck. Sometimes, if the disease is severe, the patient may exhibit symptoms of heart failure. Usually, heart failure symptoms include shortness of breath, leg or abdominal swelling and right quadrant abdominal pain.

Sometimes, tricuspid valve conditions may be caused by infections, such as infectious endocarditis or rheumatic fever. Rare causes of tricuspid valve disease include birth defects, cardiac trauma and tumor. Oftentimes, if tricuspid valvular disease is a result of rheumatic fever, aortic or mitral valve disease may also be present.

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Generally, diagnosis of tricuspid valve disease includes an electrocardiogram test and chest x-ray. In addition, an echocardiogram may also be ordered. An echocardiogram employs the use of sound waves to generate images of the heart, valves and surrounding structures. This medical diagnostic test allows the cardiologist to evaluate the effectiveness of the heart valves by monitoring how they open and close.

Frequently, an abnormal tricuspid valve may also be noticed during a routine physical examination. Sometimes during a routine medical examination, the physician may hear a heart murmur. This condition refers to the abnormal flow of blood through the heart valves. In addition, the physician may detect an irregular or rapid pulse and an abnormal pulse in the jugular vein. Although these symptoms may not be related to valvular disease, further tests may be indicated to rule out other sources of disease.

Occasionally, valvular disease may warrant the need for a tricuspid valve replacement. Usually, though, the tricuspid valve can be repaired using a technique called ring annuloplasty, which replaces the damaged valve area with a ring, usually made of plastic. In less severe cases, this condition can be managed with medications. Generally, medications that are used in the medical management of this disease include medications to manage heart failure and drugs to control an irregular heartbeat. In addition to medications, the physician typically will monitor the disease with regular follow-up appointments.

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