Key Points about Tricuspid Valve Replacement
- Damaged or diseased tricuspid valves are treated with tricuspid valve replacement.
- Replacement heart valves are made out of biological or mechanical materials.
- Follow-up care after tricuspid valve replacement is necessary.
The tricuspid valve is one of four valves that manage blood flow through your heart, and it connects one of the upper and lower chambers of the heart (atria and ventricle). The tricuspid valve works to keep blood flowing in the correct direction in your heart. During a tricuspid valve replacement, the surgeon removes your damaged tricuspid valve and replaces it with a new tricuspid valve.
Candidates for tricuspid valve replacement
You may be a candidate to undergo a tricuspid valve replacement procedure if your tricuspid valve is severely damaged by disease and cannot be surgically repaired.
Risks associated with tricuspid valve replacement
Risks of tricuspid valve replacement can include:
- Blood clots
- Heart rhythm problems
- Valve dysfunction in the replacement valve
Preparing for tricuspid valve replacement
You may need to stop taking your regular medications for a period of time before your surgery. You will also likely need to avoid eating or drinking (fast) for about 12 hours before your tricuspid valve replacement. Your surgery team will provide you with those details. When you arrive at the hospital for the procedure, you should wear comfortable clothing and leave all valuables – including jewelry – at home.
Expectations during tricuspid valve replacement
Tricuspid valve replacement procedures are performed in a hospital operating room. You will be under general anesthesia for the procedure, meaning that you’ll be fully asleep. When possible, surgeons use minimally invasive techniques for the procedure. Your incisions (cuts) will typically be smaller with these techniques, and your risk of infection and post-surgery downtime is less.
Your surgeon will begin the replacement procedure by making one large incision (for open surgery) or a few smaller incisions (for minimally invasive surgery). The surgeon will use the incision(s) to access your tricuspid valve. He or she will remove your damaged valve and replace it with a new valve that is either mechanical (man-made out of surgical plastic or metal) or biological (a pig or human heart valve).
Once your new valve is in place, your surgeon will close the incision(s) and cover your chest with bandages. In most cases, you will spend at least a day in the intensive care unit (ICU) after valve replacement. During this time, you will receive fluids and medications through an intravenous (IV) line and your care team will closely monitor you.
After being discharged from the ICU, you will spend another several days in a regular hospital room. During this time, your care team works with you to get you up and moving, manage your pain and monitor your surgical area for any signs of infection or other complications.
Your overall recovery time until you can return to your normal activities varies from person to person. It is important that you set and keep your follow-up appointments with your surgeon or cardiologist. Your specialist will provide a personal assessment and let you know when it is safe for you to return to all of your daily activities.
Conditions that may need tricuspid valve replacement
If you have a disease that affects the tricuspid valve, you may need to undergo a tricuspid valve replacement procedure. These diseases include:
- Tricuspid atresia
- Tricuspid valve regurgitation
- Tricuspid valve stenosis
When to seek care
If you think you may need tricuspid valve replacement, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.