Tricuspid regurgitation is also called tricuspid insufficiency and this is a condition that affects the tricuspid valve located between the right ventricle and atrium in the heart. The heartbeats or contractions on the right side open and close the tricuspid valve so blood can pass from the atrium to the ventricle. Yet, occasionally, the tricuspid valve doesn’t close properly, and this may cause a problem with blood leaking back into the atrium, called regurgitation. Such insufficiency may have numerous causes, usually resulting from problems present in the right ventricle like heart failure.
One potential cause of tricuspid regurgitation is Ebstein’s Anomaly of the tricuspid valve, a congenital disorder that usually occurs without cause, but may result if women take lithium when they are pregnant. In this disorder the leaflets on the valve are not placed correctly so the valve cannot close properly. Severe forms may require multiple surgeries, but more minor forms might merely need careful watching and bacterial endocarditis prophylaxis (antibiotics) prior to dental procedures.
Other causes of tricuspid regurgitation can include past history of rheumatic fever, which may damage the right ventricle, certain types of tumors, or history of radiation therapy. A more recent cause of the condition resulted from use of a certain diet drug, Fen-Phen. One confusing potential cause is pulmonary hypertension. This creates higher pressure in the pulmonary artery, which might cause regurgitation or may be a symptom associated with it.
The degree to which tricuspid regurgitation is symptomatic depends on its severity. A small leak may not be noticed, but if pulmonary hypertension is present, the condition will usually be diagnosed. Even mild forms can be visualized quite easily on echocardiograms. Those people with more severe cases can have a number of symptoms suggesting the condition including fatigue, swelling of hands and feet, fluid gathering in abdomen, and easy to see neck veins that pulse slightly.
Degree of severity may also determine treatment. Medications might be given to ease right heart failure or to correct things like high blood pressure that could result in tricuspid regurgitation. When the condition is very severe, tricuspid valve replacement may be considered, even though this means people must generally undergo additional replacements in the future, since the valves used are bio-valves, either from cadavers or animals, and won’t hold up like mechanical valves do. Very mild forms of this condition may simply be evaluated from time to time and may not significantly affect health or activities.