January 3, 2022

This valve between the right chambers of the heart may be leaky or too stiff.

The heart’s four valves are made of flaps that work together to open and close. This helps blood flow through the heart and out to the body, without backflow. The tricuspid valve lies between the right atrium (right upper chamber) and the right ventricle (right lower chamber) of the heart.

When the flaps don’t close properly, blood leaks back into a chamber of the heart instead of moving forward. This is called tricuspid regurgitation.

When the flaps don’t open enough, blood is forced through too small an opening. This is tricuspid stenosis. It’s a rare condition. Typically it happens together with other problems with a valve.

What causes problems with the tricuspid valve?

Causes of tricuspid valve problems include birth defects, rheumatic fever, infection, left ventricular heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and changes that come with aging. Surgeons can use several techniques to repair a leaking tricuspid valve. These include attaching bands to support the valve, inserting rings around the valve base (annulus), and using specific types of stitches to help the valve flaps work better.

Surgeons may repair the valve with open-heart or minimally invasive surgery.

When a tricuspid valve repair is needed

If a valve is leaky or doesn’t open and close correctly, it may need repair. This might involve surgery to correct a birth defect or damage to the valve from an infection. When the problem is just with the tricuspid valve, a repair surgery can help you regain energy.

However, repair to only the tricuspid valve is unusual. Surgeons usually repair this valve during another planned heart surgery.

What a minimally invasive procedure is like

In a minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon inserts special tools into your chest through several smaller incisions, rather than a single large incision. These tools include a camera, and all the instruments needed to repair your valve. This procedure might take longer than traditional open-heart surgery but recovery may be easier.

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a leader in treating heart valve disease with the newest transcatheter techniques. Vanderbilt’s team includes general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, all with advanced training and expertise in structural heart and valve disease. They treat patients with diseases of the aortic, mitral or tricuspid valve, from the routine to the complex.

Download a free treatment guide