Tricuspid Valve Abnormalities
Tricuspid valve abnormalities occur when the valve between the two right chambers (right atrium and right ventricle) of the heart does not function correctly. There are several tricuspid valve abnormalities, these are better understood by first explaining how the heart should function.
Normal Heart Function
The heart consists of four chambers, two upper filling chambers (atria) and two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). Between each atrium and ventricle, there is a valve that stops blood from flowing backwards.
The function of the heart is to pump blood around the body. Blood enters the right atrium from the body through the tricuspid valve and into the right ventricle. From here it is pumped up the pulmonary artery to the lungs to pick up oxygen.
Oxygen-rich blood comes back to the heart through the pulmonary veins into the left atrium, where it flows through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle. This pumps the blood into the aorta and from there it circulates around the body.
In the presence of tricuspid valve abnormalities, this puts a strain on the normal function of the heart and ultimately reduces the distribution of oxygen around the body.
Types of Tricuspid Valve Abnormalities
The heart is like a jigsaw, it requires essential components of the atria, ventricles and valves to fit together in order to function as a whole. If one piece is missing, much like the jigsaw is not complete, the heart will not be able to work efficiently. The types of tricuspid valve abnormalities include:
1. Tricuspid valve regurgitation
In this condition, the tricuspid valve does not close properly and blood flows back into the right atrium.
2. Tricuspid valve stenosis
In this condition the tricuspid valve is narrowed, decreasing the amount of blood that can flow through from the right atrium into the right ventricle.
3. Tricuspid atresia
Tricuspid atresia is a congenital condition which means it is present at birth. In this condition, the tricuspid valve is not formed and a solid sheet of tissue blocks the blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle.
4. Ebstein’s anomaly
This is another congenital heart defect in which a malformed tricuspid valve sits lower than normal in the right ventricle. This can cause the blood to flow back into the right atrium (tricuspid valve regurgitation).
The following tests can be carried out to identify a tricuspid valve abnormality:
Chest X-ray to determine if you have an enlarged heart
An echocardiogram to monitor any heart defects through ultrasonic waves
An electrocardiogram (ECG) uses sensors (electrodes) to assess heartbeat regularity
Holter monitor (essentially a portable ECG) to be worn for one to two days
Cardiac catheterization is a less common technique to assess blood flow through the heart and vessels
The type of treatment depends on the tricuspid valve abnormality, the following may be considered:
Monitoring through physical examinations
Medication to control heart rate and rhythm
Surgery may be required to either repair or replace the tricuspid valve
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.