Lung Function Declines with severe Chest Deformity

In a national study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that a chest wall depression caused by a common deformity inhibits lung function, as the cavity grows deeper.

Study lead and a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia, Dr. Robert Kelly, said, “These results confirm what we have observed anecdotally, that children with more severe pectus excavatum report more incidents of shortness of breath and a higher degree of exercise intolerance.”

A condition commonly known as sunken chest, Pectus excavatum causes progressive chest wall collapse due to abnormal growth of the chest cartilage. For 25 years, CHKD pioneered the treatment and research on chest wall deformities ever since Dr. Donald Nuss developed a minimal invasive surgery to fix the malformation.

The lung function study involved 327 pre-correction pectus excavatum patients between the ages of 6 to 21 from nationwide hospitals, including CHKD. The severity of pectus excavatum was determined using standardized medical measurements and lung function was assessed using a spirometer, a device used to measure the volume of air expelled from the lungs.

Dr. Kelly says, “The results suggest a correlation between the severity of pectus excavatum and lung function. The more severe the deformity, the more lung function was compromised.” He stressed that lung restriction, and NOT airway obstruction, caused the effect.

While the decline is relatively modest, Dr. Kelly believes researchers next need to study lung function in pectus excavatum patients at the larger tidal volumes required during exercise.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Boston, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, and the Hospital for Sick Children at the University of Toronto were a few amongst the study collaborators from 10 and more hospitals.

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