My Child Has Pectus Excavatum — Now What?

My Child Has Pectus Excavatum — Now What?

When your baby is born, all you want is 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, about one in every 150 to 1,000 babies are born with a chest wall deformity called pectus excavatum — a sunken or malformed chest cavity. 

It affects boys more often than girls, and it may not show up until their body develops more fully, around the time of adolescence. 

Naturally, you’re concerned about what this means for their health and well-being, and you want to know what you can do for your child.

In New York and New Jersey, you can get all the answers and help you need at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates. We specialize in chest wall conditions and provide you with information, support, and the most advanced treatments available. 

We understand your concerns, and we’re here to guide you through the journey of caring for your child with pectus excavatum.

What causes pectus excavatum?

The exact cause of pectus excavatum is unknown, but researchers believe it may occur when cartilage in the chest grows too much and pulls the breastbone inward. 

Pectus excavatum may also occur if your child has a connective tissue disorder, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndromeNoonan syndrome, or Marfan syndrome. Severe scoliosis is another potential culprit.

We do know that pectus excavatum tends to run in families. In fact, about 43% of our patients with this sunken-chest condition have one or more family members with the same deformity. 

Is pectus excavatum serious?

The first thing to do when you notice a deep depression in your child’s chest wall is to come see our experts here at Rockland Thoracic. We provide a thorough physical exam and talk with you and your child about the symptoms they’ve experienced. 

We also use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to reach an accurate diagnosis and rule out other potential problems. 

We evaluate your child’s chest wall to determine whether the pectus excavatum condition is causing further health issues, such as arrhythmias. We examine their aorta and perform lung tests to ensure the chest deformity isn’t hindering cardiopulmonary function. 

The most common problems kids with pectus excavatum encounter are:

These symptoms aren’t always cause for alarm, but if the pectus excavatum is extreme, it can restrict lung volume and heart function, in which case it can become serious. 

In addition to the potential physical complications, pectus excavatum can lead to significant body image issues that make your child feel self-conscious. 

When does pectus excavatum require surgery?

Not all children with pectus excavatum need treatment, but those who do typically require a surgical solution. Some of the indications that point to the need for surgery include:

In many cases, pectus excavatum is only a mild deformity that your child can live with safely. But continue to watch for signs that they’re having trouble breathing or are progressively tired. 

If your child needs treatment, the best time to undergo the surgical repair is between the ages of 12 and 18, but they can have the surgery later in life, as well. 

Types of pectus excavatum surgery

Our specialists can restore your child’s chest wall and create more breathing room for their heart and lungs through various surgical techniques. 

Open surgery 

In an open surgical procedure called the Ravitch repair, we remove the overgrown cartilage, relocate the breastbone and ribs, and shore up the chest wall with titanium bars. 

Minimally invasive surgery

When possible, we use a minimally invasive procedure that allows us to make only a few small incisions — in some cases, only one — and use a video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical technique. 

This enables us to make a narrow tunnel underneath the breastbone where we can insert a bar that guides your child’s chest wall into the proper position.

To find out if your child requires surgery for pectus excavatum, schedule a consultation with our team. We have locations in Washington Heights (Manhattan), Pomona, Goshen, and Fishkill, New York, and in Englewood, New Jersey. Call us today or request an appointment online.

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