-- Robert Preidt
THURDSAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Children with sunken chest
require prompt evaluation to rule out more serious underlying
conditions and to plan corrective surgery if necessary, according
Sunken or hollow chest, the result of a malformed rib cage, is
one of the most common birth defects of the chest wall. It affects
one in 300 to 400 children and is rarely life-threatening.
The main reason to perform surgery is to improve heart and lung
function, not to improve appearance, Dr. Fizan Abdullah, a
pediatric surgeon at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore,
explained in a Hopkins news release.
He said assessment of children with sunken chest accomplishes
three goals -- it rules out serious underlying syndromes, assesses
cardio-pulmonary function and begins the planning of surgery.
A small number of children with sunken chest have Marfan
syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissues that can
cause potentially deadly problems such as arterial aneurysms or
rupture of the heart's aorta, Abdullah said.
A sunken chest can compress the heart and lungs and affect
breathing and circulation, especially in more severe cases. Serious
heart and lung problems are rare, but even children with mild
sunken chest can have reduced cardiovascular endurance, tire
quickly, have a feeling of pressure on their chest, and experience
neck and back pain.
Surgery can remedy these problems and restore the chest to
normal appearance. Several different surgical approaches can be
used, including minimally invasive alternatives to open-chest
surgery, Abdullah said.
The ideal time for surgery is between ages 14 and 16, Abdullah
said. Doing the surgery at an earlier age when a child's bones are
still growing could result in reemergence of the sunken chest.
However, earlier surgery would be performed in severe cases that
seriously compromise heart and lung function, Abdullah said.
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