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Tricuspid valve replacement is a type of heart surgery that occurs in people with dysfunctional tricuspid valves that cannot be repaired. The tricuspid valve is one of four heart valves located between the right ventricle and right atrium, or the two heart chambers on the right side. There can be many reasons why the tricuspid valve malfunctions, but any malfunction is considered valve disease. In many cases, a malfunctioning valve can be repaired so that it works properly again. If not, then tricuspid valve replacement may be recommended.
Valve repair is the preferred method of treatment for valve disease, but damaged valves that are beyond repair must be replaced to keep the heart functioning properly. Fortunately, advancements in surgical techniques frequently allow for minimally invasive heart surgery, which decreases recovery time for surgical repairs and replacement. If tricuspid valve replacement is necessary for a patient, there are both video- and robot-assisted surgical options that may be possible. In some cases, minimally invasive surgery is not an option for valve replacement and traditional open heart surgery may be necessary.
When tricuspid valve replacement becomes necessary, the damaged valve is removed and replaced with either a biological or mechanical valve. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of artificial valves. Biological valves are less prone to build-up and patients may not need to take any medications following replacement, but the life span of a biological valve is not considered to be as long as a mechanical valve. Conversely, a mechanical valve has a significantly longer life-expectancy, reducing the chances of future failure, but the patient will be required to take blood thinning medications for the remainder of their life. The type of valve chosen may depend on a variety of factors and should be thoroughly discussed with a surgeon.
The specific risks associated with tricuspid valve replacement are dependent on the individual situation and factors include a patient’s past medical and surgical history, age, heart condition and the experience level of the surgeon. The general risks that exist are the same as with other types of invasive surgery and should be discussed with a surgeon. Post-operative success following tricuspid valve replacement is generally good and most patients are able to return to their normal lifestyle. There may be post-operative consequences, such as taking routine medications and regular monitoring, that result from valve replacement. A cardiologist and a heart surgeon typically work together to determine the best approach to valve replacement in order to achieve the best outcome for the patient.