Pectus excavatum is a congenital abnormality when the breastbone protrudes into the body. This condition, which is also called a sunken chest, can cause various problems, ranging from lack of self-confidence to limited heart and lung function.
Pectus excavatum is the most common chest deformity , which is around 1 in every 400 babies born. The sunken part of the chest as a typical sign of this disease can be seen at birth, and is more clearly visible when the sufferer enters adolescence.
Symptoms experienced by pectus excavatum sufferers can be mild to severe. In severe cases, the ribs can press on the heart and lungs. As a result, sufferers can experience a variety of complaints, ranging from chest pain, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.
Causes and Risk Factors of Pectus Excavatum
Until now, the exact cause of pectus excavatum is not known. However, pectus excavatum is suspected to occur due to genetic factors, because most sufferers have families with the same condition.
In addition, there are a number of medical conditions that can increase a person's risk of pectus excavatum, namely:
- Marfan syndrome
- Turner syndrome
- Noonan syndrome
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Osteogenesis imperfecta
Symptoms of Pectus Excavatum
In childhood, pectus excavatum usually does not cause symptoms. Symptoms usually appear when the sufferer enters adolescence and worsen with age. In severe cases of pectus excavatum, the sternum can press on the lungs and heart. Symptoms of the condition can include:
- Tired easily
- Wheezing or coughing
- Recurrent respiratory tract infections
- Shortness of breath when exercising
- Heart palpitations or rapid heartbeats
- Heart murmur or noise
When should you go to the doctor?
Immediately check yourself with a doctor if your child or you experience the above symptoms. Inspections also need to be done when the following complaints appear:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tired easily, even when not active
Diagnosis of Pectus Excavatum
Doctors can detect pectus excavatum by performing a physical examination on the patient's chest. The doctor will also recommend the patient to undergo further examination, in order to detect problems in the heart and lungs, such as:
Chest X-ray and CT Scan
Photos Chest X -ray and CT scan are intended to check the severity of pectus excavatum. This examination can also be done to see if the sternum is pressing on the lungs and heart.
Electrocardiogram (EKG) An
EKG is used to check the heart's electrical activity and heart rhythm. EKG examination in patients with pectus excavatum generally shows abnormal results.
Echocardiography or USG of the heart is done to check if the cavity in the chest affects the function of the heart and heart valves.
test Lung function test aims to measure the amount of air that can be accommodated by the lungs and how quickly the air is expelled from the lungs.
test Cardiac exercise test aims to monitor the work of the heart and lungs during exercise. This examination is generally done with a static bike or treadmill .
Treatment of Pectus Excavatum
Pectus excavatum with mild symptoms generally does not require special treatment. However, the patient will be recommended to undergo physiotherapy , to help improve posture and strengthen the chest muscles.
When pectus excavatum causes disorders of the heart or lungs, the doctor can recommend the patient to undergo surgery. The types of operations include:
This procedure is performed by making small incisions on both sides of the patient's chest. Next, the doctor will insert curved metal through the incision, to lift the sternum to a normal position. The metal will be lifted after 2–3 years.
In this procedure, the doctor will make an incision in the middle of the chest, then lift some parts of the cartilage around the sternum. Next, the doctor will repair the sternum and install a metal support. After 6–12 months, the metal will be lifted back.
Complications of Pectus Excavatum
Untreated pectus excavatum can cause complications in the form of:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart beats fast
- Limited activity
- Hunched body posture
Prevention of Pectus Excavatum
Pectus excavatum cannot be prevented, because it is a congenital abnormality. However, sufferers can prevent complications due to this condition by undergoing daily physical therapy, which can be in the form of push-ups , as well as exercises to strengthen the chest and back muscles.
In addition to preventing complications, physical therapy can reduce the risk of patients undergoing surgery. It is important to remember that this physical therapy should be done under the supervision of a doctor. In addition to physical therapy, sufferers will also be advised not to smoke. The purpose is to prevent worsening of heart and lung conditions.
Another effort that needs to be done is prenatal check-ups and routine check-ups to the doctor during pregnancy, especially if you have a family history of pectus excavatum.