March 6, 2023 -- A new procedure could help with the problem of leaking tricuspid valves in the heart, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The tricuspid valve allows deoxygenated blood to flow between the right and left ventricles. When the valve leaks, blood flows backwards and accumulates in different parts of the body, leading to fatigue, breathing difficulties, and swollen hands and feet, among other symptoms.
In the new procedure called transcatheter edge-to-edge repair (TEER), doctors applied clips to the tricuspid valve, which narrowed its size and cut down on the chances of leakage, which is called regurgitation.
“Tricuspid TEER was safe for patients with severe tricuspid regurgitation, reduced the severity of tricuspid regurgitation, and was associated with an improvement in quality of life,” the study concluded.
The tricuspid is sometimes called “the forgotten valve” because it’s understudied compared to other parts of the heart, according to the National Library of Medicine. About 1.6 million Americans have the problem of tricuspid regurgitation.
Currently, the only medical treatment is loop diuretics, drugs which flush excess fluid out of patients’ bodies on a temporary basis, The New York Times reported in a story about the clips. Over time, fluid retention worsens until the kidneys fail. Open heart surgery is usually not an option because people with tricuspid leakage often have a number of co-morbidities or other factors.
The study was conducted by Abbott, the medical device company, and involved 350 patients with an average age of 78. About half got the clip and half got a loop diuretic. After a month, 87% of participants with the clip reported that the severity of their tricuspid regurgitation had been downgraded, compared to 4.8% of the group getting loop diuretics, Abbott said in a news release.
“I felt better immediately,” clip recipient Adelaide Effertz, 86, Pine City, Minn., told The Times. “It’s just wonderful.” Effertz said she no longer has the severe fatigue that required her to take a couple of naps each afternoon.