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Pectus Excavatum

Pectus Excavatum


Hello everyone! Kicking off our Cardiovascular series is a special feature article by Ellison Morgan, which highlights the condition Pectus Excavatum. In this feature, you will learn about Ellison's personal experiences with Pectus Excavatum, as well as symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Happy Reading!

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I opened the letter, and I saw the one word I did not want to see. IRREGULAR.


Hello, my name is Ellison, and I have a condition called Pectus Excavatum (commonly shortened to “Pectus” and referred to as “Sunken Chest”). This is a condition in which the breastbone or sternum is sunken into the chest. This often displaces the heart to one side, while also putting pressure on the heart and lungs. There are also self-image problems linked to people with this condition.



As a kid, I always thought I was the same as everyone else, but as I went into middle school, this feeling of normality faded. Not only did I experience the various effects of puberty, but I also developed a few body insecurities. The most predominant one was, to put it frankly, the hole in my chest.


The locker room and pool parties became places where people would constantly ask about my body.



“Yo bro, why does your chest dip like that?”


“What’s that Grand Canyon-looking thing you got going on?”


“Did someone punch you really hard or what?”


Although these comments would prod at my insecurity, I would try my best to laugh them off.


“Yeah dude, when I was a kid, I got punched really hard. You don't wanna see the other guy though, trust me.”


I would get asked endless questions to which I had very limited answers. These questions made me feel even more isolated.


A year ago, I had my annual check-up with my pediatrician. My Pectus Excavatum had never really been a health concern, but with the pediatrician’s advice, my parents and I decided it would be best for me to get an EKG (electrocardiogram), just to be certain that the Pectus wasn't affecting my heart.



About a week passed, and the results were finally in. I opened the letter, and I saw the one word I did not want to see. IRREGULAR. If I did actually have a heart or lung condition, I would be disqualified from joining the military, which was my dream at the time.



In order to figure out what this irregular EKG result meant, I had to go to a cardiologist a few weeks later. This period of waiting was one of the scariest times of my life. This happened during the summer as well, so I had a lot of time alone to think about all the possible negative outcomes of the appointment. At the specialists, they took another EKG.




Thankfully, this one came back normal. Dr. Sharron explained that Pectus Excavatum was more common in men than women. She said that even though mine appeared deep, it had no effect on my heart or lungs, besides pushing them over to one side. However, if I wanted to, I could still get surgery to push my breastbone back into the normal position, which would also help some self-consciousness go away. She also pointed out my flared ribs and exaggerated shoulders which are common in people with Pectus.



Dr. Sharron explained the 2 main surgeries a surgeon may perform to correct Pectus Excavatum: The Nuss procedure and the Ravitch procedure. During the Nuss procedure, a surgeon makes 1-2 slices on each side of the outer chest and then inserts 1-2 bars underneath the sternum area. Around 2-4 years later, these bars are removed, resulting in the sternum being moved into the natural position.




The alternative, called the Ravitch procedure, is similar to the Nuss procedure. In the Ravitch procedure, the center of the chest is cut open so that the surgeon can remove some of the cartilage attaching the ribs to the sternum. A metal bar is then inserted into the chest which will be removed after about a year. Both are said to be extremely painful surgeries with a minimum recovery time of 2 weeks and leave lifelong scars around the rib cage area.



Lastly, she explained that the body insecurity and embarrassment I experienced are extremely common for people with Pectus. Confidence plays a major role in daily life during the teenage years, which is when Pectus becomes more noticeable. Therefore, it is crucial for teens with Pectus to know that they are not alone. And if needed, there is a way to push their chest back into a regular spot.



My story is not unique; hopefully, by telling it, others will be more comfortable in their own skin. Above all, we have to remember that it is ok to be different. By embracing our differences, we can have a more complete understanding of the world; and with a more thorough understanding of the world, we can change it for the better.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thanks for reading our feature on Pectus Excavatum! We hope you learned about this condition, as well as the impact it can have on individuals. We also hope you gained more knowledge about different causes of Pectus, and different treatment procedures.


Please don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe, and if you liked this article, you should check out Salina's article on Transitioning, linked here.


Until next time,

Ellison and the Writing Committee :)


“Chest Wall Disorder: Pectus Excavatum (for Parents) - Nemours Kidshealth.” Edited by Andre Hebra, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, June 2018, kidshealth.org/en/parents/pectus-excavatum.html.

“Pectus Excavatum.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Mar. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pectus-excavatum/symptoms-causes/syc-20355483.

“Pectus Excavatum: Symptoms, Tests, Management and Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17328-pectus-excavatum.


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1 Comment


medicalmarvels
medicalmarvels
Aug 03, 2022

Very well written. Thank you for sharing your story with us and raising awareness about this important topic, Ellison.

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