Shining a light on pectus excavatum
According to a study carried out in 2012 by the Centre for Appearance Research, 70% of adult women and 40% of adult men say they have felt pressure from television and magazines to have a perfect body. Which is why films like Ellie Jane’s are so important. Ellie has a condition known as pectus excavatum and when we came across her YouTube video we knew straight away that we wanted to share it with you.
There are two main types of pectus anomaly – excavatum and carinatum – and both occur between the ribs and the sternum (or breast bone). As the cartilage between the ribs grows longer, the sternum is pushed either inwards (pectus excavatum) or outwards (pectus carinatum). The condition occurs before a child is born and there is evidence to suggest that these are hereditary conditions.
Pectus excavatum, which Ellie has, is also known as 'funnel' or 'sunken' chest, and often becomes more obvious during early adolescence, when growth is rapid. Although many people with pectus don’t experience severe physical symptoms, it can have a significant impact on self-confidence. Like Ellie, we often hear patients say that they are unwilling to be seen without a shirt while swimming or during other social activities.
At LOC, we see more young men than women with pectus, but there is no data on the true gender split and, just because we don’t see as many young women, it doesn’t mean they’re not out there. Which is another reason why Ellie’s film is so inspirational.
In severe cases of pectus, surgery may be recommended. Good results have been reported, but it is a major procedure with risks attached and often does not address the problem of the flaring of the ribs, which is fairly common. Patients can also be left with visible surgical scarring.
LOC does not carry out surgery. Instead, we follow the methods of Dr Haje, who – before passing away in 2012 – successfully treated more than 1,900 patients from all over the world at his clinic in Brazil. Dr Haje showed that it was possible to improve chest wall shape with a combination of bracing and exercise.
Our LOCpectus non-surgical treatment of pectus involves wearing a bespoke brace, known as a Dynamic Chest Compressor, in conjunction with a device called the Vacuum Bell plus daily exercises. The optimum age for non-surgical treatment is during puberty, as the chest wall is still pliable, but the process does require a lot of work from the patient. But we have seen good results that make that effort worthwhile.
If you would prefer to investigate surgical treatment, we have developed strong links with consultants across the UK and would be happy to recommend someone for you.
In the meantime, we want to congratulate Ellie for taking such a bold step to help more people understand this condition.
If you would like to find out more about costs, then contact LOC. We offer a free initial consultation so that a prospective patient can be examined and the treatment options discussed without any commitment to proceed.