Living with Pectus Excavatum

Angela noticed her chest looked different than other girls' when she was a teenager. There’s a deep indent in the center of her chest caused by a sunken sternum. The condition, called pectus excavatum, is the most common chest wall deformity in children.

As a teenager, Angela was concerned about her appearance and how the condition affected the clothes she could wear.

As she’s gotten older the indention has gotten deeper, and her sternum is pressing on her internal organs, including her heart and lungs.

“It’s difficult for me to breathe sometimes when I take deep breaths,” she says. “It’s also scary in a way. I feel suffocated sometimes.”

Angela also says the condition affects her ability to exercise.

In the past, one doctor told Angela he would need to break her ribs and chest bone so he could turn her chest bone around. Another doctor told her he could implant a silicone form in her chest. She and her mother, Pat, didn’t like either of those options.

Now 24, Angela is looking for other options, and her mother reached out to The Doctors for help.

Dr. Frazier Frantz, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughter in Norfolk, Virginia, explains a minimally invasive surgery he performs in which he places a steel bar under the sternum to elevate it to its normal position. The bar is left in place for two to three years to ensure the chest wall permanently has been remodeled.

“Immediately, it will relieve the compression on her heart and lungs right there in the operating room,” he says.

Dr. Frantz surprises Angela by offering to perform the surgery free of charge. 

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