The tricuspid valve is located between the right atrium and the right ventricle of the heart. When the right ventricle contracts, it is supposed to pump blood forward into the lungs. If the tricuspid valve does not close tightly, some of that blood leaks back into the right atrium. When the atrium receives its usual quantity of blood from veins leading to the heart, plus the leaking blood, the pressure inside the atrium increases. This higher pressure creates resistance to the flow of blood in the veins that enter the atrium from the body. In addition, this increase in pressure causes the right atrium to enlarge over time. Congestion from fluid buildup occurs, particularly in the liver and legs.
Causes and symptoms
If a person has serious lung disease or a narrowing of the pulmonary valve, the right ventricle must pump harder to force the blood through the pulmonary valve. In order to pump harder, the right ventricle enlarges and the valve opening stretches, causing the valve to leak.
Tricuspid valve insufficiency usually produces such vague symptoms as general weakness and fatigue. As the conditions worsens, a person experiences pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, caused by a congested and enlarged liver. The legs may also swell (edema).
An enlarged right atrium can cause atrial fibrillation (the atria flutters, rather than pumping in a regular rhythm) and severe tricuspid regurgitation of blood, which can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.
Dorothy Elinor Stonely, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,