Dr. Amy Stanfill, a pediatric surgeon with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, works with children with chest malformations—a deformity where the chest either caves in or protrudes out. “When the chest caves in there can be some changes in the heart function or the lung function, but when the chest sticks out it doesn’t impair heart function or lung function, which is good,” she said.
If a child has a chest that caves in, doctors say surgery is the only option—but if the chest sticks out, patients have the option of wearing a brace to correct it. “The more contemporary way to fix this is to put a brace on the chest, similar to putting braces on the teeth so that we can get them to be in the position that we want,” said Dr. Stanfill.
The most common brace is designed for teenagers—and it’s recommended they wear the brace every day for three years. “The brace was a big piece of plastic in the front, a big piece of plastic in the back, metal bars here, and it was only adjustable to so much,” she said.
But a new brace is giving children a more comfortable treatment. “This is a new piece of technology that the children’s hospital bought so that we could provide more state-of-the-art care to our patients with this new brace,” Dr. Stanfill said.
The T- Joe Pectus brace is custom designed for each child. Using a 3D scanner to take images of the child’s chest, doctors can get a comfortable brace for patients as young as three years old. “One of the limitations of the other brace is it only came in one size. Now that we have a brace that’s customizable per patient, we can intervene a lot earlier,” she said.
Required to be worn for about a year, the new brace allows kids to be kids while correcting the chest malformation.