10 Benefits of Vacuum Bell Therapy vs Nuss Procedure in 2022 & More

Evidence Based This post has medical citations

There are plenty of advantages of vacuum bell therapy over pectus excavatum surgery.

These advantages are enough for patients to choose this non-surgical treatment over minimally invasive procedures, especially if the deformity is mild or moderate.

List of Advantages

  • Therapy is non-surgical
  • Less restrictive
  • Fewer side effects
  • Freedom of patient to determine the intensity of the application himself
  • No ban on physical contact sports, such as in the case of the Nuss procedure
  • No scars 
  • No blood loss
  • Less pain 
  • Shorter treatment
  • Aiport beeping

1. Therapy is Non-Surgical

  • There is no need for surgery preparation. That usually takes months or even years.
  • No need for harmful X-Rays.
  • Sometimes, the surgeon you want to do the surgery with has a full schedule, and you’ll need to wait for a year or so. During this time, your deformity may worsen.

There is a lot of discomfort following a pectus excavatum surgery. This depends on which type of surgery was done. Post Ravitch or Nuss surgery, patients usually experience:

2. Less Restrictive

The suction bell can be removed any time in the day, and you can continue playing your favorite sport with your buddies. 

After that, you can put on the vacuum bell again. There is a lot of room for creativity. 

That isn’t the case with the surgery. Removing the pectus bars will require additional surgery. 

3. Fewer Side Effects

The potential side effects of vacuum bell therapy are:

  • Skin bruising and swelling
  • Subcutaneous hematoma—ruptured blood capillaries
  • Pain in the upper back
  • Skin irritation
  • A numb sensation in the arms

Most of the side effects affect the skin. You can prevent these side effects with a proper chest skin routine while applying the vacuum bell.

On the other hand, the side effects of Nuss surgery are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pneumothorax
  • Pleural effusion
  • Inflammation around the heart – Pericarditis
  • Bar displacement
  • Cardiac injuries
  • Risk of death

4. Less Pain

The pain is minimal in comparison to surgery. For example, if the pain becomes very uncomfortable, you can take off the suction bell for a moment. I don’t feel any pain unless I pump the vacuum bell too hard.

You don’t need to pump until your sternum touches the transparent window. This is excessive and can even cause skin rashes and blisters. It can take a few months until the pain of the Nuss and Ravitch procedure disappears.

The pain of the vacuum bell, even when pushed to the limits, isn’t too bad for a painkiller. 

5. Freedom to Determine the Intensity

On some days, you may feel more motivated to correct your pectus excavatum deformity with the vacuum bell. On those days, you can push the limits of the vacuum bell to the point where your sunken chest is close to the transparent window.

You can play it cool and pump just a few times on other days, so your chest stays flattened. I did this while I went to sleep with the vacuum bell applied to sleep comfortably while I corrected the chest.

6. No Scars

At the end of the vacuum bell treatment, there are no scars. This isn’t the case with Nuss and Ravitch procedures.

Some patients that underwent the Ravitch procedure are more dissatisfied with the new scar in the center of their chest than the way their sunken chest looked previously. 

7. No Blood Loss

Massive bleeding from a Nuss procedure is rare, but it may require a blood transfusion if it happens.

However, if this occurs, it can be fatal. Blood loss is expected in more invasive surgeries like the Ravitch procedure. This risk doesn’t exist with vacuum bell therapy. 

8. No Physical Contact Sports Limit

There are a lot of physical restrictions following a Nuss procedure, which will lower your quality of life for a few months. 

You should avoid full-contact sports such as football, rugby, ice hockey, and some martial arts for three years or until your Nuss bar is removed from your chest. These sports can cause bar dislocation in your chest, which can rupture your organs such as the heart or cut a major blood vessel.

This can be very demotivating for younger athletes who love to pursue a career in those sports. The Nuss procedure can break their dreams. 

Concerning the vacuum bell, you can take it off any time you participate in these sports. You don’t have any bars in the chest, which can cause problems if you get struck.

9. Shorter Treatment

Usually, the vacuum bell needs to be used for about a year or until you’re satisfied with the results. If you use the device consistently, you will not need more than a year to finish the treatment successfully.

On the other hand, the Nuss bars usually stay in your chest for three years and require additional surgery to remove the bars. 

10. Airport Beeping

The Nuss bar in your chest can cause the metal detector at the airport to beep. You will need to always carry a clinical letter at airports.

This can be unpleasant and complicate your travel if you can’t find the letter. This isn’t the case with the vacuum bell. 

Vacuum Bell Is Not Perfect

It takes time and discipline if you want lasting successes with the vacuum bell. You need to apply the device consistently. As an adult or teenager, you must clench your jaw and go on.

You must continue the treatment for at least six months.

Unfortunately, some patients think there is no correction and become impatient. Usually, there are no doctors to motivate them to continue the therapy. 

Because of that, it is essential to be a part of a pectus excavatum group to interact with others.

Motivation Boost

Most recently, doctors can use an Optical Scanning Device for impatient patients to notice the differences before and after the vacuum bell treatment.

The goal of this approach is to keep these patients motivated

The Bottom Line

The vacuum bell has a lot of advantages over pectus excavatum surgeries. The risks are minimal, while there are a lot of benefits.

Unfortunately, surgery may be the only option that can fully correct a sunken chest in some severe cases. The vacuum bell is a perfect alternative to surgery if the deformity is mild or moderate.

If you have any questions and problems regarding the suction bell therapy and have nobody to get in touch with, please feel free to contact me personally.

I will respond and try to help you with your situation.

Article by:

Mihail Veleski

My name is Mihail Veleski. I used to suffer from the pectus excavatum deformity during my teenage years.

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