Pectus Excavatum in Babies & Kids – 7 Tips for Parents

Evidence Based This post has medical citations

kids with funnel chest

Pectus Excavatum in Babies

Recent studies revealed that pectus excavatum in babies may be genetic. The deformity can result in increased pressure on the heart and lungs during the growing period.

Asymmetrical shapes of the deformity are more common in older patients, and not babies. Studies say that 1 out of 500 children struggle with this malformation.

The diagnosis of pectus excavatum is based on clinical images and objective examinations during systematic analyses of children during the school period. In severe deformities, clinical tests can also be made after birth.

Symptoms of Pectus Excavatum in Kids

pectus excavatum in babies

If kids are born with pectus excavatum, it might not be noticeable at first. This makes it much harder for parents to recognize the problem.

Luckily, there can be many symptoms that can be an indicator to seek medical help. One of the symptoms may be if your baby is crying very often for no particular reason.

If it starts crying when you touch its chest, that can be a sign of a hidden deformity that will worsen in the teenage years. The crying is closely related to chest bone pain, which is one of the most common signs of pectus excavatum.

Another sign for parents is coughing. That can be caused by a hard pushing of the breastbone into the lungs. Studies have shown that pectus excavatum in babies can also cause respiratory infections.

When kids are young, there are many visible symptoms of the deformity. The shoulders are usually pushed forward, and an abnormal curvature of the thoracic spine is evident.

In many patients, there is a curvature of the spine to the side (scoliosis), which mainly worsens during adolescence. Furthermore, the pressure of the sternum to the heart might also give your kids heart-related symptoms like a fast heartbeat.

KEY POINT:

Crying when you touch your baby’s chest and frequent coughing are considered the most common signs of pectus excavatum in babies.

How to Treat Sunken Chest in Kids

If you are seeing some of these problems with your baby, the best way is to find an excellent pediatric who can help you with diagnosing pectus excavatum.

According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, there are three most common methods to examine the deformity.

  • CT scan (computed tomography scan, sometimes called “cat scan”).
  • Lung function test to check the breathing patterns.
  • Ultrasound of the heart (also called an echocardiogram or “echo”).

After the deformity is diagnosed, it tends to progress slowly until puberty. On average, 12-14 years of age is the best time to recognize whether the problem needs treatment or not.

Kids that don’t have any serious heart issues or breathing problems can live an entirely healthy life without treatment. When the child is done with growing, the sunken chest should not get any worse.

When it comes to treatment, parents should be the best support for their kids. The sunken chest will become visible, and that will be hard to hide.

That will lead to psychological problems. Your child can be prone to becoming sad, depressed, and not happy with itself.

Guiding your kid with the help of a doctor or a trainer, through a proper and focused treatment is the best thing you can do for your kid.

KEY POINT:

Doctors need three tests to confirm pectus excavatum in children. The deformity starts progressing in puberty, until your kid stops growing completely.

How to Help Your Kid With Concave Chest

After the deformity is diagnosed, it tends to progress slowly until puberty. On average, 12-14 years of age is the best time to recognize whether the problem needs treatment or not.

Kids that don’t have any serious heart issues or breathing problems can live an entirely healthy life without treatment. When the child is done with growing, the sunken chest should not get any worse.

When it comes to treatment, parents should be the best support for their kids. The sunken chest will become visible, and that will be hard to hide.

That will lead to psychological problems. Your child can be prone to becoming sad, depressed, and not happy with itself.

Guiding your kid with the help of a doctor or a trainer, through a proper and focused treatment is the best thing you can do for your kid.

KEY POINT:

Make sure you tell your kid that there is nothing wrong and that the sunken chest can be fixed.

Physical Therapy for Kids with Inverted Chest

When I was diagnosed with pectus excavatum as a teenager, my doctor advised me to start yoga. It is a workout that is recommended to anyone, regardless of age.

I suggest you introduce yoga in your kid’s life. After the kid progresses in the workouts, it can try harder yoga workouts with more challenging exercises.

This will lead to an improved posture, rapid growth of muscle mass and strength, improved breathing patterns, reduced stress, and finally, improved pectus excavatum deformity.

However, if your kid has a problem with tiredness and muscular inflexibility, there are specially designed exercises with a limited range of motion.

These exercises are straightforward and are gentle to the joints.

Pediatrics often recommend developmental activities, such as:

  • Walking
  • Adaptive play
  • Water therapy
  • Improving circulation around injuries by using heat or cold therapy
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Massage
  • Ultrasound
  • Home treatment for pectus excavatum in kids can also include vacuum bell devices

In simple terms, that is a device that consists of a pump that sucks the air out of the device is attached, creating a vacuum that pulls the sunken chest to a normal position.

If you do this therapy correctly, with time, the kid’s chest wall will stay forward on its own, permanently.

KEY POINT:

Yoga and other physical activities can help your kid in correcting the inverted chest deformity.

Surgical Correction of Pectus Excavatum in Kids

If your child’s condition needs medical help besides home treatment, you and your doctor can choose surgery as one of the fixing solutions.

Before the surgery, your kid needs an Echo of the heart. The purpose of this is to look for valve problems that can be associated with pectus excavatum.

A CT scan of the chest is performed to estimate how successful the repair surgery might be. You will also need to obtain allergy testing to ensure your child does not have a sensitivity to nickel or chromium.

The surgery in children is the same as that in adults. Total anesthesia must be given in these problematic and long-lasting surgeries.

This means that there is specific food that your kid must eat before the operation. As stated by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the surgery will take from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the method.

And after that, your kid must stay at the hospital for better recovery.

Two Types of Operations

There are two types of surgery that are most commonly used: the open (or modified Ravitch) procedure and the Nuss procedure. In the open procedure, they place a support system in the chest wall to hold it in the proper position.

The Nuss procedure is a less invasive technique. The surgeon inserts a curved metal bar to push out the sternum and ribs, helping in the reshaping process.

A stabilizer is added to keep it in place. In 3 years, the chest reshapes, and both bars are surgically removed.

What Type of Surgery Is Better for Older Kids

Research proved the Nuss procedure is better for older kids, which are more than eight years old. The open surgery or the Ravitch procedure is better for younger kids.

Having a steel bar in the chest raises several issues about daily activities. That is why families must be patient and careful.

Surgeries Can Sometimes Be Ineffective

There are so many examples of failed operations or failed healing processes. The worst part of these surgeries is the possibility of pectus excavatum recurrence after the operation.

That happens often, mainly because of incomplete removal of cartilages, rough healing, failed fusion of removed cartilage and sternum, infections, seroma complications, or early departure of the support devices.

Pectus Bar Displacement in Children

Bars that are embedded in the chest can be displaced very quickly. If the bar is too long, or placed too laterally, it can affect the heart area.

The heart cannot pump blood efficiently, which will cause new difficulties to the patients. The Nuss procedure can be very difficult for kids because they should be very careful not to displace the Pectus bar, during their everyday activities.

They must be very cautious, even when walking around big groups of people. Also, they need to be careful about playing contact sports in the process of healing.

Just because daily activities are minimal, it can cause weakening of muscle mass. There are plenty of reasons why non-surgical and long-lasting treatment is the best.

Wearing posture braces from a very young age is an excellent way for your kid to develop a proper, sturdy posture, which will ease the process of treating pectus excavatum.

KEY POINT:

Nuss and Ravitch procedure are the two most commonly used surgeries to repair pectus excavatum in children. They are effective, but there are plenty of cases where there was deformity recurrence after Pectus bar removal.

7 Rules for Parents

  • Be the best motivator and supporter of your child
  • Give your child all the patience and care that you have
  • You need to know that there is nothing wrong with your kid. These problems are widespread and can be solved
  • Be the best friend to your child, so they can feel free to tell you if they have any self-esteem dilemmas, which are very common with this kind of deformity
  • At first, try the most natural way of treatment, which is non-surgically. If that doesn’t help, talk with a doctor, and ask whether surgery would be the best solution
  • Find ways to help with the non-surgical treatment option in your household
  • Be consistent.

Conclusion

Just because there isn’t enough information about this deformity in children, it doesn’t mean there aren’t enough ways to correct it except for surgery.

You and your child must find ways to fight through this. Finding a good doctor to guide you through this journey is helpful. You must believe in the process of treating pectus excavatum.

When you are done with every medical analysis and you’re sure about the diagnose, your kid can start with the proper treatment. If this means that the surgery is the best solution, you must be mindful of recovery.

Furthermore, if the deformity isn’t very severe, there is an opportunity for a non-surgical treatment. Go for it without any doubt.

Using orthopedic aids is of great help in the treatment of sunken chest. Doctors recommend this highly, especially for children and teenagers.

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