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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Children's Health Channel
Reported June 12, 2014

Concave Chest in Teens

MIAMI (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Can you imagine being a teenage boy, living at the beach, and not having enough confidence to take your shirt off and not having enough energy to even take a walk? The condition is called concave chest.  One-in-500 kids will be born with it.

Just last year, even yoga was too exhausting for Thomas Luongo.

“I couldn’t do any strenuous activity because you could see my heart beating through my skin,” Luongo told Ivanhoe.

Thomas suffered from pectus excavatum, or concave chest. His chest was sinking in, pressing on his lungs and his heart, and zapping his energy and his confidence.

“People would be like, ‘oh I can eat cereal out of your chest,'” Luongo explained.

Pediatric surgeon Cathy Burnweit used a metal bar to remodel Luongo's chest.

“It’s basically putting a metal bar under the sternum and it remodels the sternum, much like braces,” Cathy Burnweit, MD, Chief of Pediatric Surgery, Miami Children's Hospital, told Ivanhoe.

Doctors cut a small incision on both sides of Luongo's chest. The bar is tunneled under the skin, underneath the breast bone, and is then rotated and the breast bone is pushed out.

“We usually do the procedure as the child enters puberty and so they go through their growth spurt with the bar in place,” Dr. Burnweit explained.

The chest will remodel over the course of three to four years. Before this surgery, doctors had to perform open chest surgery, remove the cartilages, break the sternum, and then let the bones re-heal. The recovery time was months.  With the bar procedure, Luongo was able to leave in five days and was back to daily activities in just one month.

“I feel a lot better [and] I feel healthier,” Luongo said. “I’ve gained weight and I feel better about myself.”

Dr. Burnweit says the bar is taken out in three to four years. A smaller number of kids suffer from a condition called pectus carinatum, or pigeon chest, where the chest bulges out. It is easily treated with a brace.

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Cathy Burnweit, MD
Chief, Department of Pediatric Surgery
Fellowship Director
Miami Children's Hospital


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