Tricuspid Valve Disease

When you have tricuspid valve disease, you want to start breathing easier and feeling better as soon as possible. The doctors at our Center for Structural Heart Disease help you achieve that goal.

Why choose Henry Ford Health System for tricuspid heart valve care?

Minimally invasive procedures provide an alternative for those who can’t have surgery, as well as a faster recovery. While very few programs nationwide offer even one minimally invasive option for tricuspid valves, we have several. We have deep experience with tricuspid valve care.

How your tricuspid valve should work

The tricuspid valve sits between the chambers that make up the heart’s right side. Normally, the valve’s three flaps open fully and close tightly, allowing blood to flow from the upper chamber (atrium) to the lower chamber (ventricle).

What is tricuspid valve disease?

Tricuspid valve disease is common but often goes untreated, in part because options for care are often limited at other programs. The disease occurs when the valve doesn’t open or close properly. The two types of this valve disease are:

  • Tricuspid stenosis: Stenosis (narrowing) of the tricuspid valve occurs when its flaps become thick and stiff. This change prevents the valve from fully opening, restricting the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs. This type of stenosis is extremely rare.
  • Tricuspid regurgitation: Regurgitation occurs when the valve’s flaps do not close tightly, allowing blood to leak back into the right side of the heart. Regurgitation can cause fluid buildup in the heart and is common in adults.

Causes and types of tricuspid valve disease

The causes of tricuspid valve disease can be categorized as follows:

  • Congenital: Someone is born with a heart valve problem that leads to stenosis or regurgitation.
  • Acquired: This condition develops later in life from disease or heart problems.

Tricuspid valve disease is also divided into two types:

  • Primary: The tricuspid valve itself is diseased.
  • Secondary: The heart’s bottom right chamber (ventricle) is dilated, or enlarged, and causes an otherwise normal tricuspid valve to not work properly.

Symptoms of tricuspid valve disease

Tricuspid valve disease develops slowly, growing worse over time. You may experience few symptoms at first, or none at all. As the valve’s condition declines, the heart must work harder to pump blood, and you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Swelling in the abdomen, ankles or feet
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Heart murmur
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Pulsing in the neck veins

Diagnosing tricuspid valve disease

Our doctors have extensive experience diagnosing tricuspid valve disease. You can make your first appointment at our main campus, Henry Ford Hospital, or in Jackson (Henry Ford Allegiance) or Clinton Township (Henry Ford Macomb)]. During your visit, your doctor:

  • Performs a complete physical exam
  • Asks about your symptoms and medical history
  • Reviews your tests or imaging studies
  • Recommend additional heart tests and scans, when needed

Latest treatments for tricuspid valve disease

After your visit, our team meets to discuss your case and works together to develop customized treatment recommendations. We then review your treatment options with you, so you can decide what’s best for your needs. Options may include:

  • Medication and monitoring: Medications can’t cure heart valve disease, but they can help relieve symptoms in the early stages. We can also help you make lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation that can improve symptoms.
  • Minimally invasive heart valve replacement or repair: Our doctors use catheter-based treatment, with a thin tube reaching your heart through a blood vessel. These procedures provide an alternative to open-heart surgery, with a faster recovery. Learn more about heart valve repairs and replacements.
  • Surgery: Some people still benefit from traditional open-heart surgery to repair or replace the valve. Expert heart surgeons on our team provide safe, effective treatment.
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