Vacuum Bell Therapy for Kids in 2022, Ideal Age, Benefits, Tips & More

Evidence Based This post has medical citations

Vacuum bell remedies for children can help them avoid surgery. Even though it may be annoying for children at some point, there are a lot of benefits of choosing this non-surgical treatment over surgery. 

Doctors believe that both children and adults have advantages and disadvantages to vacuum bell therapy. This article will cover everything you need about vacuum bell therapy for children.

Best Age for Children to Start Vacuum Bell Therapy

The ideal age for vacuum bell therapy still needs to be specified. However, some indicators show more effectiveness in some age groups.

Studies are continually examining variations of success dependent on age. After making a growth spurt in puberty, the pectus excavatum severity will be at its peak

According to Kelly Bartkus, a General Surgery Nurse Practitioner at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, the ideal candidates for vacuum bell therapy are children who have just entered puberty. They are eager to start the treatment and follow the regimen seriously.

Also, according to Boston Children’s Hospital, vacuum bell therapy is more effective when the kid is about 11 years old

In a 2016 study, it is mentioned that further studies have to evaluate whether starting with vacuum therapy before puberty will be more helpful than starting during puberty or later.

The children with a mild pectus excavatum who consistently use the vacuum bell have the most excellent chance that the therapy would be successful. 

Advantages for Children

For example, children have an advantage over adults in chances of successful correction with the vacuum bell. Their bodies are still growing, and their anterior chest wall is more flexible.

Disadvantages for Children

Alternatively, adult patients can benefit from an entirely different advantage. After wearing the device, most grownups have the breastbone raised for longer than children. After a couple of hours, their sternum slowly sinks back at a slower pace than in children.

This allows adults to distribute the vacuum bell application throughout the day. That way, the dent can barely sink back in between.

For example, apply the vacuum bell for one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon, and one hour in the evening. That way, the chest will stay normal throughout the day.

How Is Age Linked to VB Success

According to Pectus Clinic, age plays a huge factor in how flexible the chest wall is. When we get older, our cartilaginous joints become stiffer and bone-like. This makes pectus excavatum correction more difficult. This is individual.

Some older people still have flexibility in these joints, while some young people have stiffer chest walls. It all comes to chest wall flexibility.

Generally, the older the individual is, the more rigid the chest is, and vice versa. This is also known as musculoskeletal maturity. 

Vacuum Bell Is Used Effectively in Boston Children’s Hospital

The Boston Children’s Hospital physicians apply innovative methods for the early treatment of children with pectus excavatum.

One of these methods is the non-surgical vacuum bell therapy. These physicians say kids with severe pectus excavatum can avoid surgery thanks to the vacuum bell

You can contact Kelly Barktus, a nurse practitioner at Boston Children’s Hospital, to help you with the vacuum bell therapy for your kid.

Important Considerations

Wearing Vacuum Bell At School

Even though children can wear the vacuum bell while at school, physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital don’t recommend it. They recommend wearing the device before and after school.

That way, kids won’t be bothered by it by putting it on and off during school hours. This can distract the children from the classes, especially if they feel uncomfortable or painful. 

When to Take Vacuum Bell Off

Even though there aren’t many vacuum bell use restrictions, physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital recommend children take the device off during:

  • Gym class 
  • Contact sports. 

Also, children shouldn’t wear the device while swimming or doing any water-related activities. After swimming, children should completely dry their chests before applying the vacuum bell. That will make sure there is no damage to the skin of the chest. 

Do Children Like Vacuum Bells?

Some children feel self-conscious about the vacuum bell because of how it looks. If that is the case with your kid, don’t force him to wear it anywhere besides your home.

Also, you can advise your kid to wear the device beneath thicker clothing so it is less noticeable.

Some children even love how this device looks and are proud to show it to their friends barechested. 

How Long Should Kids Wear the Vacuum Bell?

If the kids use the device consistently, it should take about a year until they see the permanent correction of their sunken chest.

Generally, the success of the treatment depends on the kid’s chest flexibility, deformity severity, and consistency of applying the vacuum bell. 

How to Make Vacuum Bell More Interesting

Many children wear the vacuum bell for several hours during the day and find the device annoying. 

To make time pass more quickly, kids find solutions such as listening to music or playing video games. 

Kids will enjoy the device more when they see that it works and flattens their chest.

Always remind them that vacuum bell therapy will make them avoid surgery

Side Effects of Vacuum Bell for Children

During a 2016 study about vacuum bells, researchers reported no side effects in the age group 3 to 10. However, as mentioned in studies, kids can experience the same side effects as adults at a lower occurrence rate.

These problems are luckily only temporary and go away if you shortly pause the vacuum bell therapy or decrease the intensity of the pressure appliance (reduce the number of pumps).

The side effects usually affect the skin. Because of that, skincare is essential even for children. These problems are nothing too serious to worry about. Also, kids usually won’t clean their vacuum bells. As a parent, I highly recommend you clean your kid’s device at least once a month.

Stories

Jesse Zuniga Successful Vacuum Bell Story

Read the story of Jesse Zuniga. He is a 12-year-old boy that just entered puberty and was given a non-surgical vacuum bell treatment option by Dr. David Mooney at Boston Children’s hospital. At a recent appointment at Boston Children’s, he and his mom received terrific news that his deformity had improved significantly. That was a massive motivation for Jesse to continue therapy. He enjoys the process that has been done for six months.

Impressive Story on Reddit

Thanks to the vacuum bell, here’s impressive progress shared on Reddit about how an 8-year-old kid’s sunken chest is corrected. The post also includes eight pictures where you can see the progress. 

The kid’s parent says the key to successful therapy is to wear the device long enough, as long as the kid’s skin can handle it. When her kid used it only for two hours while traveling, the chest elevation wasn’t backward in two days.

When the Reddit post was published, she said her kid used the vacuum bell for only two months. She also said her kid’s chest is not yet stable, and the elevation lasts for only a few hours.

The elevation lasted only a few minutes when the kid started the therapy. As you can see, there has been progress made here. She said her kid wears the vacuum bell for 9 hours at night (probably while sleeping) and 1 hour in the daytime. 

It is still early in the process, but you can see fantastic improvement in the pictures shared in the post. It takes about a year until the chest elevation stays permanent. The kid is probably very motivated, as he wears the device for 10 hours daily.

Supervision is Important

In a 2016 study about vacuum bell therapy, it is mentioned that the use of the vacuum bell in kids aged 3 to 10 years should be supervised by parents or caregivers. 

The Bottom Line

I am happy that the vacuum bell is implemented in Boston Children’s Hospital for children to avoid surgery. In 2021, it was named the #1 pediatric hospital in the country for eight years in a row.

A lot of research proves the effectiveness of the vacuum bell for correcting pectus excavatum in children. You got nothing to lose in trying this device. If it doesn’t work, there is still time for surgery.

But if it does, it can even save your kid’s childhood by not being restricted from sports or other activities by risking Nuss bar dislocation.

If you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me or write a comment in the section below. Thank you for reading! 

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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