What is Pectus Excavatum?
Pectus excavatum is a deformity that makes a child’s chest appear sunken or caved in. The direct translation from Latin is “hollowed chest.” It happens when the bone and cartilage connected to our sternum - or breastbone - grow in abnormal ways. The sternum then grows inward and can even rotate in some cases. Because pectus excavatum is related to the growth of a child’s bones, the condition may not be apparent and in many cases isn’t noticed till puberty.
If you notice a deformity in your child’s chest, it’s essential to have them evaluated by a surgeon for pectus because it can interfere with vital organs like the heart and lungs. Additionally, left untreated pectus excavatum can be profoundly disfiguring, leading to long-term self-esteem issues.
Symptoms of Pectus Excavatum
- Problems tolerating exercise
- Limitations with certain physical activities
- Chest pain
- A rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Coughing or wheezing
- Issues with self-image
- Pyschosocial and emotional problems
Pectus Excavatum Diagnosis
The surgeons at Golisano Children’s Hospital diagnose pectus excavatum based on a physical exam and a child's medical history. If needed, other tests might be ordered, such as:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan or a chest MRI to see the severity and degree of compression on the heart and lungs
- Echocardiogram to test heart function
- Pulmonary function tests to check lung volume
- Exercise stress testing to measure exercise tolerance
Treatments for Pectus Excavatum
The Nuss procedure is a minimally invasive treatment for pectus excavatum that our surgeons at Golisano Children’s Hospital specialize in. Using the aid of a small camera, our surgeons can make a small incision that they can use to insert a custom curved metal strut in a child’s chest. This strut pushes out the sternum and ribs, coaxing the chest wall to reshape naturally without cutting or breaking any bones. A stabilizing bar keeps the prop in place and can be removed after 2-3 years when the chest reshapes and heals!
After performing the Nuss Procedure, our surgeons will use cryoblation therapy to reduce pain after the operation. Your child’s care team uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the nerves of the chest wall which numbs them and significantly reduces their pain post-surgery. This cutting-edge procedure allows us to minimize the use of narcotics that are typically prescribed to treat post-surgical pain
Renowned pediatric surgeon Dr. Andre Hebra describes how treats pectus excavatum in Fort Myers, Florida.