Vacuum Bell Therapy for Pectus Excavatum in 2022, Everything You Should Know

Evidence Based This post has medical citations
vacuum bell treatment for funnel chest

A vacuum bell is a bowl-shaped device made of orthopedic silicone. It is connected to a pump. When you use it consistently, it can flatten the pectus excavatum deformity. Plenty of scientific evidence proves this is an effective alternative to surgery.

What Is the Vacuum Bell Made Of?

what is the vacuum bell made of

1. Suction Cup (Silicone Body)

The elastic body of most vacuum bells is orthopedic silicone. It is flexible, pleasant to wear, and compatible with the skin. At the same time, it is exceptionally durable and easy to clean.

Its chemical and mechanical attributes are also great. Don’t worry about it causing chemical reactions on your skin.

2. Viewing Window

Every vacuum bell on today’s market has a viewing window made of polycarbonate. Polycarbonates used in vacuum bells are very tough. They are optically transparent. When applying vacuum pressure, you can see how your hollow chest raises through the window.

3. Hose Nozzle

It is made of polyamide. The screw-coupling in the middle of the hose nozzle and the viewing glass reduces steadiness. If you break the hose nozzle, you can ask the device’s manufacturer for a replacement. However, the chances of this happening are very minimal.

4. Suction Pump & Suction Hose

The purpose of the pump is to suck the air out of the device. This creates a vacuum that pulls the sunken sternum into a normal position. They’re made of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride). Due to security hazards, the power of the suction bulb is restricted.

Because of this, you should only use the suction bulbs that come with the device. Back in the day, Eckart Klobe’s vacuum bell concepts were so powerful that they could quickly generate a powerful vacuum harmful to the skin.

Does the Vacuum Bell Work?

is vacuum bell therapy effective

2021 Study

recent 2021 research compares surgery versus vacuum bell therapy to correct pectus excavatum. The goal was to compare one-year clinical outcomes between patients who underwent surgery with patients that did vacuum bell therapy. 

The study concluded that the therapy showed comparable outcomes and can become an alternative treatment for patients that prefer non-surgical correction of the deformity.

2019 Study

А 2019 UK study concluded that vacuum bell therapy is safe for treating pectus excavatum non-surgically. Research has shown the treatment to be more successful in patients with:

  • Mild deformity
  • Symmetric deformity
  • More compliant chest wall
  • The lower amount of rib flaring

2006 Study

2006 study proved that the vacuum bell is a successful alternative to surgery in selected patients with pectus excavatum. The initial results were proven to be dramatic. However, long-term results were lacking, and further follow-up studies are necessary.

2016 Study

Most of the research on the effectiveness of vacuum bell therapy for pectus excavatum comes from a study done in Switzerland. The study included 140 patients (112 males and 28 females).

In this study, the patients averaged around 100 minutes of vacuum application a day. After the therapy was finished, in 61 patients, the vacuum bell raised the breastbone to a normal level after 21.8 months of treatment.

About 80 percent of all patients saw a tremendous improvement in their chest wall, and about 15 percent got a total repair. Few patients had only applied the suction cup device for nearly a month, not completing the required time of the study.

There is a definite chance they could’ve had fantastic improvement if they continued to follow the therapy. The study’s successful results are why many doctors worldwide feel comfortable doing vacuum treatment on patients.

What Do CT Scans Show After Vacuum Bell Therapy?

CT scan images shared by the Pediatric Surgical Clinic of the University of Jena in Germany show an immediate lifting of the sunken chest after a vacuum bell therapy. The photos above show the Eckart Klobe’s device on the first day of treatment.

The before and after images are done only a few minutes apart.

Patient 1 CT Scan Image

vacuum bell treatment ct scan images

This is the first CT scan image done on a patient who started the vacuum bell therapy. In the Before photo, you can see a noticeable dent in the sternum.

You can see how effective the vacuum bell device is in lifting the sunken chest to a normal position in the second photo.

Patient 2 CT Scan Image

x ray radiology photo on vacuum bell

Again, you can also see a fantastic improvement in the raising of the indented chest. This proves how effective vacuum bell therapy is in correcting the pectus excavatum deformity.

What Are Surgeons Saying About the Vacuum Bell?

doctors explaining the benefits of vacuum bell for concave chest

Dr. Corey Iqbal

Dr. Corey Iqbal is a general surgeon in Overland Park, Kansas, allied with Overland Park Regional Medical Center. He did postgraduate training at the Mayo Clinic and had a track record of trying innovative things. Dr. Corey received his medical degree from the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine.

In a recent 2019 interview for Kansas City’s most extensive, award-winning healthcare network, he said the following:

“The risks of a vacuum bell therapy are minimal, while the benefits are potentially significant.”

Dr. Corey Iqbal

You can read the full interview about why he is such a massive fan of the vacuum bell therapy for pectus excavatum here.

Dr. Robert J. Obermeyer

Also, lots of other surgeons started implementing the suction bell therapy. Dr. Robert J. Obermeyer is the leader of the non-surgical correction of the inverted chest at CHKD, the nation’s best exploration facility for chest-wall abnormalities and a teaching site for doctors worldwide.

He said:

“Years from now, we may look at the surgical procedures and realize that many of these deformities could’ve been repaired with vacuum devices.”

Robert J. Obermeyer

The vacuum bell is the first non-surgical device pectus excavatum specialists ever used to fix a funnel chest. Dr. Obermeyer also said:

“CHKD has always made attempts to decrease operating, and I believe this could wipe out the need for surgery in some pectus excavatum patients,”

In the video below, you can see Dr. Obermeyer applying the vacuum bell to a patient with a sunken chest who doesn’t want to undergo surgery. 

Vacuum Bell Use in Europe

The vacuum bell device has been used in Europe for many years, yielding incredible results. Investigation indicates that the chest improvement could be permanent.

Dr. Obermeyer went to see pectus experts in Switzerland who used the vacuum bell effectively. Since then, he has brought this technology to the United States. 

What Surprises Me the Most

It is strange how the vacuum bell therapy for pectus excavatum is still dismissed by conventional medicine as an “alternative method.”

It shows that many doctors are not seriously concerned with the non-surgical treatment of the deformity. Most established surgeons prefer to operate. Since the beginning of the health system, there has been nothing but surgery for pectus excavatum correction.

Now there is an alternative that works: the vacuum bell method.

4 Things You Must Know

Where to Apply the Vacuum Bell

It would be best to place the vacuum bell over the deepest point of the hollowed chest, in between the nipples.

How to Attach the Device

The silicone ring should be spread out and moderately pressed to your chest. It should tighten up by itself when its inner sides contact the skin. When the vacuum is applied, the device should connect to your body by itself.

How to Apply Negative Vacuum Pressure

The vacuum force is generated when you press the suction pump. To increase the negative vacuum pressure further, squeeze the suction pump when it regains its original form.

How to Remove It

To remove the vacuum bell, it needs to be re-exposed to air. It would be best to turn the suction pump’s air inlet valve at the end of a therapy session. That makes air will come into the device slowly to avoid sudden aeration.

Pectus Healing Vacuum Bell Review

pectushealing vacuum bell

Pros

  • Free shipping worldwide.
  • Ten-year manufacturer guarantee! No other vacuum bell-producing company offers that. Not even Eckart Klobe’s company.
  • Copper connector instead of a cheap plastic one that can break easily.
  • Highest grade Medical silicone makes it impossible for skin allergies to occur and fits the patient perfectly.
  • No plastic elements are prone to breaking.
  • 100% Atoxic.
  • Twelve different sizes to choose from, depending on your deformity.
  • Sizes 11, 12,5, and 14 cm are built for children with pectus excavatum.
  • You will never get pressure loss during the application, which is extremely important.
  • Excellent customer reviews on Reddit.
  • The company is an official supplier to many hospitals and medical doctors in Russia.

Cons

  • You’ll have little red spots after you take it off
  • I feel very uncomfortable while running or hiking with it
  • The women’s breasts can get pulled in when the vacuum is applied.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is the Vacuum Bell For?

Patients with mild and moderate cases of pectus excavatum are ideal candidates for vacuum bell therapy, especially if they want to evade surgical procedures

Can the Vacuum Bell Bend the Bones?

No, it can’t. You can’t reshape the solid bone structure with the vacuum bell. However, the sternum’s internal joints are moved, the rib cartilage is bent, and the connective tissue fibers and ligaments are stretched.

Are a Couple of Weeks of Therapy Enough?

You can’t permanently repair pectus excavatum in a couple of weeks. However, the chest will stay elevated after every vacuum bell therapy session. When you apply the vacuum bell, the chest is flattened.

Many patients with a compressed heart and lungs feel substantial relief while applying the vacuum bell. The device decompresses the chest. The patients instantly feel their lungs expanding to a point they never felt before.

However, this type of correction is only a mobilization of the chest. After you take the vacuum bell off, the dent in the chest will fall back again.

It takes plenty of months of consistent VB application before the funnel remains stable without a suction cup.

Can You Permanently Correct 1 Cm a Month?

That is possible. In most cases, the caved-in chest is closely associated with postural flaws such as scoliosis, round back, forward head posture, and rounded shoulders.

According to Dr. Eckart Klobe, correcting the posture problems with stretches and physiotherapy exercises will accelerate repairing the pectus excavatum deformity with the vacuum bell.

Does the Correction Process Slow Down After Some Time?

During the first months, you should finish the most straightforward steps. Those are chest mobilization, improving posture, and upper body muscle strengthening.

The most tedious and challenging task is stabilizing the sternum in a raised position during vacuum bell therapy.

How Do I Make Constant Progress?

The mobilization phase stretches the fibers, ligaments, and joints in the anterior chest wall during the first three months. Mobilization is done by applying the vacuum bell at least an hour daily.

To stabilize in an elevated position permanently, you should keep the sternum raised as often and as long as possible. To simplify, try to increase the vacuum bell application’s duration gradually. Try to use the device while you sleep.

Aim to use the device for at least 4 hours daily in the second phase (months 3-6).

How Long Should I Apply the Vacuum Bell?

Essentially, as much and as long as possible. That’s how you correct the pectus excavatum deformity in the shortest time frame. However, individually, there are lots of significant differences.

Some patients can tolerate only half an hour of VB application. That isn’t enough to correct the funnel chest without surgery. Usually, sensitive skin is the biggest reason patients can’t endure even a 30-minute VB therapy session.

You must learn to listen to your body. If you’re feeling severe aches, don’t hesitate to contact a specialist and stop the therapy. You can tolerate shorter therapy sessions if everything goes smoothly in the first weeks.

With time, you should increase the wear time gradually.

How Powerful Is the Vacuum for Pectus Excavatum

A regular vacuum bell’s power is enough to lift a maximum of 1 kg per square centimeter. This isn’t enough to raise a sunken sternum.

However, the devices designed to fix pectus excavatum can generate mind-blowing force. Let’s take Eckart Klobe’s vacuum bell, for example.

Suppose the surface of a circular vacuum bell is 20 cm in diameter. That’s roughly 315 square centimeters. This device can lift a total of 314 kg with complete vacuuming.

With partial vacuuming, the suction forces are congruently lower. For example, 15% of the device’s vacuuming power is enough to pull around 47 kg.

Modern vacuum bells can pull the indented chest to the device’s transparent window. Some patients use the vacuum bell’s maximal capacity, so their inverted chest goes into a “pectus carinatum shape.”

6 Situations to Avoid the Vacuum Bell

Eckart Klobe clearly stated a few circumstances where you should not use the vacuum bell. Don’t use this therapy if you suffer from diseases that alter the strength of the bones.

Such diseases are:

In the case of Angiopathy. That is a standard term for an illness of the blood vessels (veins, arteries, and capillaries). These can result from:

If you suffer from Coagulation Dysfunction. These are disturbances in the body’s capability to regulate blood coagulation, involving:

Should the Vacuum Bell Therapy be Used Pre-Surgically?

There is a discussion between patients and physicians about whether using vacuum bell therapy before an operation is helpful. However, the vacuum bell cost in the United States needs to be covered by the patients. Because of this, most patients aren’t interested in this “pre-therapy.”

Recent studies showed no difference between patients who did vacuum bell therapy before surgery and those who opted directly for primary surgery. I think there is no reason to purchase the vacuum bell device if your end plan is to opt for a Minimally Invasive Nuss procedure. It’ll only add up to the costs.

How to Remain Motivated

Make Measurements

If you want to see progress and success, you must measure the deformity regularly. I used to measure my chest with a ruler weekly and note the result on paper.

Vacuum bell therapy requires a lot of patience. It is hard to notice the results by looking at yourself in the mirror. You can gain a lot of motivation by merely looking at the progress evident on paper.

It’s hard to notice any improvement in the caved-in chest, especially if you look at your body daily. The vacuum bell therapy won’t be helpful for the impatient! Always remember, the funnel chest correction can take up to 2 years!

Take Photos

Another helpful measurement tip is to take photos (front view and two lateral views at 45° and 90°). First, take pictures before starting the therapy. After that:

  • Take photos of your chest every two weeks
  • Import these photos to your computer
  • Make sure you save them to a Cloud Storage service because a single computer crash can be fatal to your photos.

Remember to measure your chest after taking off the device for 14 hours. As you already know, you will raise the chest to a normal position after each session of vacuum bell therapy. It will gradually fall back to a sunken position, but not as deep as before.

Fourteen hours of wait is required to have the same foundation. 

After taking photos every week, I can proudly say that I raised the dent by 2 mm every month in the first stages of treatment.

Extra Motivation

As I previously stated, the progress stalls after a few months. However, if you do the math, that is still about a 2 cm correction in a year! More than enough to correct the deformity and make the sunken chest less visible.

If you have a more severe pectus excavatum, you must continue the treatment even after a year. Be patient, take measurements, and trust the process.

The Bottom Line

Vacuum bell therapy is a scientifically proven method to correct pectus excavatum non-surgically for both adults and kids. It helped thousands of people, including me, improve our deformities. It is a simple device that pulls the breastbone out of the cavity. Being consistent in the device application is crucial if you want to see success. 

Thank you for reading! I wish you continuous achievements and persistence!

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