What are the symptoms of pectus excavatum?
Symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or exercise intolerance may or may not occur. Body image issues are also common.
Kids with pectus excavatum should be encouraged to live active lifestyles without any restrictions.
Can I participate in sports if I have pectus excavatum?
Yes! People who have pectus excavatum should continue participating in all activities they find enjoyable. Some symptoms may be exacerbated with physical activity but the activity itself does not pose a health risk. Pay attention to activities that seem to cause problems and ask your pectus professional if there is any relation.
What are the treatment options?
Most kids aren't bothered by having a concave chest until they begin their growth spurt. Adolescents with a severe case of pectus excavatum and associated symptoms may be a candidate for surgical repair during the teenage years with the minimally invasive repair of pectus excavatum (MIRPE).
The Vacuum Bell Therapy (VBT) offers the option of a nonsurgical treatment of pectus excavatum and uses a suction device to elevate the sternum/chest wall. Correction using the VBT likely will not achieve the cosmetic result of surgical correction, however, in a subset of pectus patients, conservative treatment with the VBT represents a potential alternative to surgery.
To determine the severity of the pectus excavatum defect a chest CT (CAT scan) of your child's chest to measure the indented chest depression may be recommended to determine surgical candidacy. The CT scan is not painful and simply requires your child to lie still for about 5-10 minutes while a series of pictures are taken.
Additional testing (such as an exercise stress test, pulmonary function tests or an echocardiogram) may be required depending on the insurance company for approval of surgery and surgery is sometimes not covered by insurance. We recommend checking with your insurance company for specifics.
Pectus excavatum surgery
Doctors began using open surgery to correct the condition in the early 1900s. Eighty years later, Donald Nuss, MD, a Norfolk, Va., doctor, devised an approach that was less invasive. Since then, the general surgeons at Children’s Mercy have modified the Nuss procedure.
The surgeon inserts a steel bar that has been curved to fit under the concave sternum and around the front of the chest. The bar helps reshape the chest as the child grows.
After about three years, the bar is removed in a same-day procedure. This pectus excavatum treatment is highly effective. Less than 1 percent of children will develop the condition again.