What is the tricuspid valve?
It is called the tricuspid valve because it consists of three flaps (cusps or leaflets), and it is known as the right atrioventricular valve because of where it lies in relation to the atria and ventricles. The bicuspid valve is also an atrioventricular valve.
The tricuspid valve is sometimes also referred to as the “forgotten valve” or “lost valve” because much more academic focus is placed on the other three valves of the heart, generally.
What does the tricuspid valve look like?
The average size of the tricuspid valve in humans is 5 cm². The three flaps (the septal, posterior, and anterior leaflets – called this due to where they are located) of the valve protect its opening, which is bordered by a fibrous ring (the tricuspid annulus) and give the valve a saddle-like shape.
These cords or “heart strings” cause the leaflets to join neatly and tightly (coapt) while the valve closes during right ventricular contraction, preventing prolapsing and blood regurgitation.
What is the tricuspid valve’s function? How does it work?
The tricuspid valve plays an important role in the heart. It regulates blood flowing between the right atrium and ventricle, preventing it from flowing backwards into the atrium.
Normally, de-oxygenated blood enters from the inferior vena cava and superior vena cava (two large veins collectively known as the venae cavae) and accumulates in the right atrium.
As the right atrium fills up, the three tricuspid flaps are forced open, blood passes through to a relaxed right ventricle, and then the atrium contracts, pushing more blood into the ventricle.
What happens when the tricuspid valve doesn’t function properly?
When the tricuspid valve and/or its structures are defective, damaged, or somehow abnormal, it can malfunction, causing any number of symptoms and complications. The deformity or damage may occur due to a congenital defect or disease or degeneration that develops with age.
Tricuspid regurgitation and tricuspid stenosis are two relatively common types of heart valve disease that affect the tricuspid valve. Tricuspid atresia occurs less often.
People with valvular disease can be treated successfully. However, the outcome depends largely on the severity and underlying cause of the problem, as well as one’s personal circumstances.