Tricuspid regurgitation is a condition in which the heart's tricuspid valve does not close properly. This allows blood to leak backwards from the right ventricle into the right atrium. It may be caused by rheumatic fever, congenital defects, endocarditis, and trauma. Over time, the condition may lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and swelling of the legs and ankles. Usually, treatment is not required; however, in more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Heart valves are like doors that open and close. The valves open to allow blood to flow into the next chamber of the heart or into one of the arteries, and then they shut to keep blood from flowing backwards.
The tricuspid valve is on the right side of the heart and separates the right atrium and the right ventricle. Normally, the tricuspid valve opens when the right atrium contracts. This allows blood to flow down into the right ventricle. The tricuspid valve is closed when the right ventricle contracts, allowing blood to flow out to the lungs.
In tricuspid regurgitation, the tricuspid valve does not close properly. Therefore, when the right ventricle contracts, some of the blood returns to the right atrium instead of going to the lungs, and the heart has to work harder to pump the extra blood out of the right atrium. Over time, the right atrium enlarges because of the extra workload. As the right atrium thickens, it becomes less effective at pumping blood through the tricuspid valve.
The most common cause of tricuspid regurgitation is rheumatic fever. However, it can also be caused by:
- Conditions people are born with (congenital defects)
- Use of fen-phen
The condition also frequently occurs with tricuspid stenosis.