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What Is Tricuspid Regurgitation?

The tricuspid valve is between the right atrium (a top chamber) and right ventricle (a bottom chamber) in the heart. The valve opens when the atrium contracts to let blood into the ventricle. It closes when the ventricle contracts to stop blood flow back (regurgitation) into the atrium. In regurgitation, some blood flows back, so the atrium works harder and gets bigger (enlarged).

What Causes Tricuspid Regurgitation?

Tricuspid valve abnormalities are uncommon and often occur with abnormalities of other valves. Tricuspid valve damage may be congenital (present at birth). The most common cause is enlargement of the right ventricle secondary to pulmonary hypertension (increased pressure in the lung blood vessels). Heart infections such as rheumatic fever (from streptococcal infection) or bacterial endocarditis can cause it. Most teens and young adults with tricuspid regurgitation have congenital abnormalities.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tricuspid Regurgitation?

People with mild tricuspid regurgitation may have no symptoms. Symptoms that do occur usually start after several years. They include swelling in the feet, legs, or abdomen (belly) and breathing problems, especially when lying down. Other symptoms are uneven heartbeat, coughing up blood, and chest pain. Weakness, tiredness, and low urine volume may occur. People may develop an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. When this occurs, the atrium doesn’t contract normally, blood pools in the atrium, and clots may form. These clots may travel to the brain and cause strokes.

How Is Tricuspid Regurgitation Diagnosed?

The health care provider makes a preliminary diagnosis from the medical history and physical examination. Blood moving abnormally through valves makes a sound called a murmur. Its timing in the heart’s cycle and location help tell which valve is affected. Tests to help diagnose tricuspid regurgitation may include echocardiography, chest X-rays, and electrocardiography (ECG). Echocardiography is an ultrasound examination of the heart. ECG shows changes in the electrical system of the heart such as abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias).

How Is Tricuspid Regurgitation Treated?

Treatment depends on severity, age, and overall health. For mild conditions, no treatment is needed. Some people with atrial fibrillation take anticoagulant medicine to prevent blood clots. For heart failure, diuretics lower blood fluid volume so the heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Vasodilator medicines may be used when heart failure becomes worse. Severe tricuspid regurgitation may require valve replacement or repair (valvuloplasty).

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Tricuspid Regurgitation:

  • DO take your medicines as prescribed.
  • DO limit fluid and salt in your diet.
  • DO exercise as much as recommended by your physician.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have side effects from your medicines. Call if you have new or worsening symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, or swelling in the legs or abdomen. Call if you’re taking anticoagulants and have a cut that doesn’t stop bleeding or have a head injury.
  • DON’T over exert. If easy exercise is getting harder, rest until you see your health care provider.
  • DON’T stop taking your medicine or change the dosage because you feel better unless your health care provider tells you to.

Contact the following source:

  • American Heart Association
    Tel: (800) 242-8721
  • American College of Cardiology
    Tel: (800) 253-4636

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

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