Pulmonary and Tricuspid Valve Disease

Living with a heart valve disease can affect you in many ways, keeping you from your everyday activities. At the Center for Structural Heart Disease at Henry Ford Hospital, our heart specialists have years of experience in caring for people with heart valve disease. We use the most advanced treatments available, including minimally invasive valve procedures, to help you enjoy an active, healthy life.

The pulmonary heart valve

The heart has 4 valves that control blood flow among the heart’s chambers, sending oxygen-rich blood to the body. The pulmonary (or pulmonic) valve lies between the right ventricle (lower heart chamber) and the pulmonary artery, which sends blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen to deliver to the body.

A normal pulmonary valve has 3 flaps (leaflets) that open to allow blood to flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. The flaps then close tightly to seal the opening and prevent blood from leaking back into the right ventricle.

The tricuspid heart valve

This valve sits between the chambers on the right side of the heart. The tricuspid valve regulates the flow of blood from the right atrium (upper chamber) to the right ventricle.

Normally, the tricuspid valve’s 3 flaps open fully and close tightly, allowing blood to flow forward from the right atrium to the right ventricle.

What are pulmonary and tricuspid valve diseases?

Disease in these valves is rarer than disease of the aortic or mitral valves, especially in adults. Pulmonary and tricuspid valve diseases develop when the valve does not open or close properly. The two types of pulmonary and tricuspid valve disease are:

Stenosis

A stenosis, or narrowing, of the valve occurs when the valve’s flaps become thick and stiff, preventing the valve from fully opening. The narrowed opening prevents blood from flowing forward through the heart to the lungs.

  • Tricuspid stenosis is extremely rare.
  • Pulmonary stenosis usually results from a congenital (existing since birth) heart defect and is most often diagnosed in childhood.

Regurgitation

Valve regurgitation occurs when the valve’s flaps do not close tightly, allowing blood to leak back into the chambers on the right side of the heart. Although some blood flows forward into the lungs, the blood that leaks backward can build up in the heart.

  • Tricuspid regurgitation is a common condition for adults.
  • Pulmonary regurgitation is rare in adults.

Causes of pulmonary and tricuspid valve disease

Disease in either the pulmonary or tricuspid valve can be:

  • Congenital, meaning that you were born with heart valve problems that can lead to stenosis or regurgitation
  • Acquired, which develops later in life

Causes of acquired pulmonary and tricuspid valve disease include:

  • Disease: Some conditions, such as high blood pressure in the lungs, can cause the right ventricle to become abnormally large. This enlargement stretches the tricuspid valve and can cause regurgitation.
  • Rheumatic fever: Untreated strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever. The body’s infection-fighting response causes inflammation that can damage heart valves. Valve disease may develop even years after the infection.
  • Heart conditions: Endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner tissues), mitral valve disease or other heart diseases cause damage or scarring that can lead to stenosis or regurgitation.

Rheumatic fever can develop when strep throat goes untreated. That’s why it’s important to get proper medical care, including a full course of antibiotics, if you get strep throat.

If you have had rheumatic fever, see your physician regularly to check for heart problems. You may need an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) every 1 to 2 years.

Symptoms of pulmonary and tricuspid valve disease

Diseases of the pulmonary and tricuspid valves develop slowly and progressively worsen over many years. In the early stages of disease, you may experience few or no symptoms. As the valve deteriorates and the heart must work harder to pump blood, you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Heart murmur
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Lightheadedness or fainting (syncope)
  • Pulsing in the neck veins
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the abdomen, ankles or feet

Diagnosing pulmonary and tricuspid valve disease

At the Center for Structural Heart Disease, our experienced specialists have a depth of expertise in treating all types of heart valve disease, including rare pulmonary and tricuspid valve diseases. We work quickly to evaluate your symptoms and determine an accurate diagnosis so we can get you the treatment you need.

Whether or not you already have a diagnosis, we begin our evaluation process with a thorough assessment. During your first visit, we meet with you to:

  • Perform a complete physical exam
  • Discuss your symptoms
  • Review your family and personal medical history
  • Review any previous tests or imaging studies

We may recommend further testing, depending on your symptoms, overall health and previous test results. We use this information to guide your treatment planning. Read about the advanced tools we use in our diagnosis process.

Henry Ford: the latest treatments for heart valve disease

After we gather all the information from our evaluation process, our team meets to discuss your case. We work together to develop a customized treatment plan specifically for you.

We review all your treatment options with you so that you and your family can decide what’s best for your needs. You may need one or a combination of treatment options, depending on your overall health and the severity of your symptoms:

3D imaging and printing

We use the latest 3D technology to create an exact replica of your heart. With this model, we can precisely plan your treatment before you come in for the procedure. That means a shorter, safer procedure, less pain and a faster recovery. Find out more about 3D imaging and printing for treatment planning at Henry Ford.

Minimally invasive heart valve replacement

Our heart physicians lead their field in using the most advanced techniques for catheter-based heart valve replacement. Because we can perform these procedures using a catheter (thin, flexible tube inserted through a blood vessel) rather than open-heart surgery, we’re able to treat many people who had no other treatment options.

Read more about our skill and experience in minimally invasive heart valve replacement.

Minimally invasive heart valve repair

Depending on your heart condition and symptoms, we can repair, instead of replace, a diseased pulmonary or tricuspid valve with excellent outcomes. Find out more about the minimally invasive heart valve repair we offer for valve diseases.

Medication management

Medications cannot cure heart valve disease, but they can help relieve your symptoms if you are in the early stages. We can prescribe medications and help you make lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and smoking cessation to help manage symptoms. Read about medication management for heart valve disease.

Minimally invasive heart treatments at Henry Ford: what to expect

Our heart team is dedicated to making your patient experience the best it can be. Our physicians, nurses and other care providers offer the most advanced care available today, along with a caring touch. Find out what to expect when you come to Henry Ford for treatment of heart valve disease.

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Request an appointment or call (844) 725-6424.

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