Pectus Excavatum

What is pectus excavatum?

It is a congenital deformity of the rib cage. This pathology consists of an apparent collapse of the sternum with respect to the sternal area.

If this pathology is not treated it can cause compression (pressure) of the lungs and heart.

The apparent collapse of the sternum can create compression of the lungs and heart.

Symptoms of pectus excavatum

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased exercise endurance

What causes pectus excavatum?

Researchers think that pectus excavatum is due to irregular growth of the connective tissue (cartilage) that attaches the ribs to the sternum. This irregular growth causes the sternum to move inward.

Can it be prevented?

Unfortunately, pectus excavatum is not preventable, but the good news is that it is treatable.

What is the treatment?

If pectus excavatum creates problems in the heart or lungs, doctors may recommend surgery. The goals are to improve breathing, patient function and cardiac posture. For this, there are several surgical procedures:

  • The Nuss procedure: this is a very minimally invasive technique. A small incision is made to insert a camera and allow the surgeon to see inside the chest. Then, through two other incisions on each side of the chest, a curved steel rod is inserted under the sternum to reverse the depression. It is not visible from the outside and remains in place for two to three years and is eventually removed.
  • The Ravitch procedure: is performed by making an incision in the mid chest area to remove the cartilage. Stainless steel struts are then placed to support the sternum and the corresponding ribs are connected. This allows the sternum to be lifted. Subsequently, they will eventually be removed in another operation.
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It is possible to cure pectus excavatum without surgery using vacuum bell therapy. The problem is that it is very uncomfortable and requires a lot of perseverance and years of application to achieve a correction. Even so, in very constant patients and with great will, it can work.