What are the Pulmonary and Tricuspid Valves?
The pulmonary and tricuspid valves are located on the right side of the heart and are subject to lower pressures than the aortic and mitral valves on the left side of the heart.
The pulmonary valve is located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs. It's rarely affected by congenital disease, rheumatic disease or endocarditis, but it can become narrowed or leak.
The most common causes of tricuspid valve diseases are due to problems with the mitral valve. Endocarditis, rheumatic valve disease and carcinoid syndrome can also cause the tricuspid valve to leak.
What is Tricuspid Valve Disease?
Tricuspid valve disease refers to damage to the tricuspid heart valve. The tricuspid valve has three cusps, or flaps, that control the direction and flow of blood.
Two main types of tricuspid valve disease can occur:
- Tricuspid stenosis — narrowing of the tricuspid valve
- Tricuspid regurgitation — backflow of blood into the atrium from the ventricle due to improper closing of the tricuspid valve flaps
Causes of Valve Disease
Rheumatic fever is the most common cause of tricuspid valve disease (especially stenosis). Other causes include:
- Congenital heart problems
- Heart attack or coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- Endocarditis — heart infection or inflammation
- Trauma to the heart
- Tumors — rare
Symptoms of Valve Disease
In many cases, there are no symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, they can be related to right-sided heart failure and may include:
- Liver dysfunction
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue, especially during physical activity
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal fullness
- Swelling in the legs or abdomen
- Changes in skin color
How We Diagnose Tricuspid Valve Disease
Your doctor may be alerted to tricuspid valve disease if you have a heart murmur.
Images may need to be taken to examine your heart with:
- Chest x-ray
- MRI scan
- Cardiac catheterization
Treatment Options for Valve Disease
You may not need immediate treatment if you have mild tricuspid valve disease. When symptoms become more severe, treatments may include:
- Diuretics to promote the production of urine
- Vasodilators, which dilate blood vessels
The tricuspid valve is usually repairable with the insertion of a semi-rigid ring. The pulmonary valve often requires replacement, typically with a bioprosthetic valve that often lasts more than 20 years.
The pulmonary valve is easily approached through a sternotomy or mini-sternotomy. Operations on these valves often do not require stopping the heart, but use of the heart-lung machine is still necessary.
Is Valve Disease Preventable?
Tricuspid valve disease can't be prevented. But there are several things you can do to try to avoid some of the complications:
- Treat strep throat infections right away to avoid rheumatic fever, which can cause scarring of the heart valve.
- If your valve problem was caused by rheumatic fever, talk to your doctor about antibiotic treatment to prevent future episodes.
- Check with your doctor if you need to take antibiotics before dental or medical procedures.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.