Pectus Excavatum, or Sunken Chest

Pectus Excavatum, or Sunken Chest

Pectus Excavatum is a condition whereby the breast bone, or sternum, doesn’t develop as it should. Instead of pushing forward, it sinks inward, which can cause pressure on the heart and lungs. Symptoms may include difficulty catching your breath with exertion, and frequently feeling winded and fatigued.

A Real Patient Story

A mother brought in her teenage son, who complained of  symptoms described above.  He’d been to a pediatric orthopedist, Children’s National Medical Center,  and other specialists but still lacked a diagnosis. The mother, a longtime patient, didn’t think his symptoms fell into my area of expertise, but after all the failed attempts to diagnose the problem, she sought out my advice.

I listened to his history, then asked him to remove his shirt. This tall young man had a very deep defect of the sternum, and it was quite clear to me that it was applying a mechanical pressure on his heart and lungs.

I told his mother that while I couldn’t provide a treatment, surgically repairing the sternum, to push it forward, would alleviate her son’s symptoms. She looked at me in disbelief and asked why no one else had advised the procedure. All I could do was suggest she find someone who could do it.

And that’s exactly what she did.  Her son was successfully treated by Dr. Donald Nuss, developer of the now well-known Nuss Procedure for correcting pectus excavatum, at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk Virginia.

When the young man, now a college student, returned to see me, he was much bigger and more developed. He brought me the surgical hardware that had been removed to allow his chest to develop normally. Thankfully, now it’s just a souvenir.

This diagnosis, and the Nuss Procedure, changed this young man’s life forever, for the better. Never stop seeking answers. You never know where the right one may come from.

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