Patients who have had the common chest wall deformity known as pectus excavatum corrected report improved body image and ability to exercise, according to a study published December in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, conducted at 11 North American hospitals, involved telephone interviews of more than 200 patients between the ages of 8 and 21 who had pectus excavatum surgery. Researchers interviewed parents as well.
The results were dramatic. Patients reported greatly improved body image and marked decrease in problems with exercise.
"These results should prompt physicians to consider both the emotional and physical implications of correcting pectus excavatum," said lead author Robert Kelly, M.D., a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Professor of Clinical Surgery and Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. "For too long, many in the medical community dismissed pectus excavatum as a merely cosmetic issue, but correcting pectus excavatum has concrete physical and psychological benefits."
Pectus excavatum is the most common congenital deformity of the chest wall. Its defining feature is a depression, or indentation of the chest wall.
In the late 1980s, King's Daughters surgeon Donald Nuss developed a minimally invasive technique to correct pectus excavatum that has since been widely adopted. King's Daughters remains a major training site for surgeons and a center for research on chest wall deformities.
"In Norfolk, we've performed the Nuss Procedure on more than 1,000 patients," says Kelly. "Having such a large population of patients helped us detect a trend. In patient after patient, it was as if surgery turned a light on inside. They seemed much more confident and outgoing after surgery than they did before."
After hearing similar anecdotal evidence from other facilities, surgeons enlisted the help of psychologist Thomas Cash, Ph.D.,
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Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters