Jamie: My Pectus Carinatum Story
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Jamie: My Pectus Carinatum Story

10-October-2018

Before (left) and during treatment (right)

Like many adults with pectus carinatum, 24-year-old Jamie thought he’d missed the boat when it came to correcting his condition.

Pectus carinatum affects around one in 1,500 people, also known as 'pigeon chest', is a congenital deformity of the anterior chest wall, which occurs when the breast bone (or sternum) is pushed outward by an abnormal overgrowth of cartilage, causing visible protrusion of the bone and, in some cases, other related symptoms, such as respiratory problems. It is present at birth but often becomes more noticeable in early adolescence, when the ribcage and the rest of the body undergo growth spurts.

 

His journey

Indeed, Jamie was around 12 or 13 when he first noticed something different about his chest and, while it bothered him, he didn’t think there was anything he could do. Eventually, he consulted his GP and was told about the option of surgery on the NHS, but was soon put off by the risk of scarring, lengthy recovery time (impractical for someone like Jamie with a fulltime job in marketing) and possible failure to correct the problem.

Before and during pectus carinatum treatmentPhotos taken during treatment

It was while on a beach holiday - and feeling particularly self-conscious about revealing his deformity when topless - that he was finally spurred on to seek other options. However, frustrated by a lack of information about treatments for adults, Jamie feared that because his bones were no longer growing and the reduced elasticity in his chest (which is more malleable in adolescents) would mean his condition could no longer be corrected. In desperation, he turned to Google and that’s where he found the London Orthotic and immediately contacted us.

 

The non-surgical treatment route

Jamie has now been a patient at the LOC for the past six months, with roughly another six to go until his treatment is completed, and he’s making excellent progress. Following his initial consultation with one of our clinicians, Sam Walmsley, he began our non-surgical treatment for pectus carinatum, which involves wearing a bespoke brace – the Dynamic Chest Compressor - combined with a programme of daily exercises. The brace applies constant pressure over the area of the chest that needs to be remodelled. Because pectus carinatum is caused by the chest protruding, we use a brace which fits over the apex of the chest to push it in – the dynamic chest compressor 1 – for the upper chest. In cases where the ribs protrude as well, the lower dynamic chest compressor 2 may be needed. As the upper chest is forced inward, the lower ribs tend to flare out so we use this lower brace to push the ribs back in.

 

Initially, Jamie found the brace a challenge. “Because I’m an adult and my bones are more rigid, it was really painful for the first three or four months,” he says, “but once I got past that period of correction, it wasn’t too bad, and now it doesn’t really hurt at all.”

Although he was a bit self-conscious about wearing the brace, Jamie says his friends and work colleagues, while inquisitive at first, have been very supportive, which has helped him to remain committed to his programme. And, now that he has been wearing the brace for six months, there is a little more flexibility. “You can get to a point, like where I am with Sam, where he says: ‘If you need the brace off for a few hours every now and again, you can,’” says Jamie. “I play football, so I can take it off for training and when I play on Saturdays.”

Jamie admits that it hasn’t always been easy: “You keep questioning yourself over and over, ‘Is it going to work for me? Am I ever going to be able to sleep in it? Am I ever going to not find it painful?’ You start thinking all of those things, but eventually it just clicks, it might take four or five months, but once it does, it’s a lot easier to wear.”

The dynamic chest compressor for pectus carinatumThe dynamic chest compressor orthosis for pectus carinatum treatment

He started seeing results within a couple of months of beginning his treatment, which really spurred him on to stick with it. “And now, six months in, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a year, blast through it and you’re done, aren’t you?” he reasons.

 

Daily exercises and determination

As well as wearing the brace, which Jamie has had adjusted four times so far, he has a set of exercises to follow. “These are particularly important in the first two or three months, while you’re stretching your chest into the brace, so that you get the correction,” he says. And, fitting them around work hasn’t been too much of a challenge. “I used to mainly do press-ups because you can do them anywhere, as well as the ones where you stretch through the door, and that’s worked for me. I probably do about 20 minutes at time,” says Jamie.

pectus carinatum(Left) Before and (right) during pectus carinatum treatment

All his hard work has certainly paid off as he’s already delighted with the results. “They’re better than I thought, to be honest,” he says. “When I set out to do it, I was hoping that you couldn’t see the pectus carinatum within my clothes, but I think I’ve got it to the stage where you wouldn’t even know without a top as well. So, it’s pretty much spot on.”

And the benefits are more than just physical. “I think everyone’s noticed that I’ve got better posture, so I’ve felt more confident,” Jamie says, urging others to follow his lead: “Don’t worry about the brace being visible under your clothes, don’t worry about people questioning you because you can get past all that. It is going to be painful in the first few months, but if you can stick through that, then you’ll probably get the result you want.”

For patients considering LOC’s non-surgical treatments for pectus carinatum, the initial consultation is FREE with no obligation to proceed. During the consultation, one of LOC's clinicians will examine your chest and general posture.

If the clinician believes that your chest shape will respond using the dynamic remodelling method and that you are willing to commit to the exercise programme, they will take 3D scans of your chest shape. Further appointments will be made for casting and fitting and you will need to attend the clinic for regular reviews.

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