Learning About Pectus Excavatum Repair in Children

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A normal chest compared to a sunken chest (pectus excavatum)

What is it?

This is a surgery to correct pectus excavatum (pectus). Pectus is a problem with the cartilage that connects the bones of the chest. It's sometimes called funnel chest or sunken chest. It looks like a dent in the center of your child's chest.

Some children with pectus may feel short of breath when they are active. Your child may be troubled by how their chest looks. Surgery can treat these problems.

How is it done?

Before surgery, your child will get medicine to make them sleep.

Surgery can be done two ways. Your doctor will tell you which one is best for your child.

Nuss procedure.

Small cuts (incisions) are made on both sides of the chest. The doctor inserts a bar behind the breastbone and attaches it to the ribs. The breastbone is held in place for 2 to 4 years. Then the bar is removed.

Ravitch procedure.

In this open-chest surgery, cartilage that is the wrong shape is removed. Then the breastbone (sternum) is moved to the right position. Sometimes a metal bar is placed to hold the bone in place until it heals.

When surgery is finished, the doctor will close the cuts with stitches or staples.

What can you expect after surgery?

Your child will spend several days in the hospital after surgery.

Your doctor may want your child to sleep on their back for several weeks after surgery. You will need to limit your child's activities for several months after surgery. This will help your child heal.

The doctor may suggest physical therapy, breathing exercises, or other treatments.

You will get instructions about how to care for your child at home.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.