Chest Wall Disorder: Understanding Optimal Treatments for Pectus Excavatum

We understand Pectus Excavatum might sound like a big, scary name, but it’s something that many kids deal with.

The bond between parents and children is incredibly strong and enduring. As every parent, you also want your child to lead a healthy life. However, things might not always be smooth for everyone. It is common for children to suffer from different health issues. 

So, if your child is also suffering from chest pain or breathing problems due to chest wall disorder, then you’re not alone. We understand Pectus Excavatum might sound like a big, scary name, but it’s something that many kids deal with. 

In this article, we’ll explore the Pectus Excavatun and the different ways to tackle the disorder. This a small step towards finding the best treatments so that you can understand the disorder and act promptly in this situation.

Understanding Pectus Excavatum

Pectus Excavatum is a chest wall disorder where the breastbone (sternum) is sunken inward. It’s also called “sunken chest” or “funnel chest.” It occurs in about 1 in 40 to 1 in 400 people (Reported by the National Library of Medicine). It’s more commonly seen in males, who are referred for evaluation three to five times more often than females. 

This happens when the sternum and rib cartilage grow abnormally during fetal development. It can vary from mild to severe, with some cases causing the chest to look like it’s caving in. While the exact cause isn’t always clear, genes seem to play a big role.

Impact on Patients

Beyond the appearance-related consequences, pectus excavatum negatively impacts cardiopulmonary function and quality of life. Children with severe cases may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, exercise intolerance, and decreased endurance. 

Additionally, the condition can contribute to psychological distress, leading to body image issues, social anxiety, and decreased self-esteem. However, with effective treatment options, your child can experience improved comfort and engage in daily activities more comfortably.

Diagnosis and Assessment

Diagnosis is the primary step in examining the disorder condition and planning treatments accordingly. The following are the steps:

  • Physical Examination: Doctors will examine the chest to see if there’s an inward dip.
  • Imaging Tests:  The processor might need X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to determine how severe the dip is and whether it affects organs.
  • Functional Tests: Doctors may perform tests to check how well the lungs and heart are functioning, such as breathing tests or echocardiography.
  • Guiding Treatment: The results of these tests help the doctors decide on the best treatment plan based on the condition and symptoms.
  • Regular Follow-ups: Even after diagnosis, it’s important to keep going for check-ups to see if anything changes or if further treatment is needed.

Treatment Options

The management of the disorder depends on various factors, including the age, severity of the deformity, associated symptoms, and preferences.

Observations:

If the sunken chest is mild and does not cause big problems, your doctor might just keep it under observation. They’ll check regularly to see if it gets worse or if any symptoms show up. This will help them decide if they need to do something about it later on.

Non-surgical Approaches:

These treatments aim to strengthen the chest muscles and improve posture as the child grows.

  • Physical Therapy: This involves doing special exercises to strengthen the chest muscles. These exercises help to fix the chest’s appearance and functioning. 
  • Chest Wall Exercises: These are specific exercises that stretch and strengthen chest muscles. They include stretches, push-ups against a wall, and using stretchy bands. Doing advised exercises regularly can make chest muscles more flexible and stronger. 
  • Bracing: Wearing a brace is like wearing a special jacket that puts pressure on the chest. It’s most helpful for children with less severe sunken chests. The brace is worn for a few hours every day and gradually changes the shape of the chest.

Surgical Correction

Surgery is generally considered for children with moderate to severe conditions or those experiencing difficulty in breathing or chest pain. However, the surgical techniques used in children depend on their chest size and growing bodies.

Ravitch Procedure 

This surgery is also called open repair. Doctors make cuts on the chest to reach the sunken part. They remove the abnormal cartilage and move the sternum forward using special implants. It fixes the problem precisely but can take a longer time to recover with scare.

Nuss Procedure

This surgery is less invasive. Doctors put a curved metal bar under the sternum through small cuts on the chest. They then rotate the bar to push the sunken part back into place. This surgery is often preferred for children. It results in smaller scars and shorter recovery times.

After Treatment

After treatment, whether your child had surgery or non-surgical treatment, here are some important things to remember:

  • Rest and take it easy post-surgery.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions closely.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities.
  • Take pain medication as prescribed for discomfort.
  • Attend follow-up appointments for monitoring.
  • Gradually regain strength and resume normal activities.

Conclusion 

Dealing with Pectus Excavatum can be tough, but there’s always hope. By understanding the condition and exploring treatment options, you or your little warrior can find relief and regain confidence. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. With help from medical professionals, you can get through this. Keep believing in yourself, stay hopeful, and keep moving forward bravely.

Sierra Vandervort

Hey there 👋 I’m Sierra – welcome to my website!

I’m a writer, mindfulness coach, and community builder located in the here and now.

I’m here to help you connect to something bigger, find your tribe & live in total abundance!

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