For Kelsey Vickers, the indentation in her chest was something she could easily hide. At only 13 years old, it did not have a huge impact. It was only when she went in for a laparoscopic procedure to have her appendix removed last year that her surgeon, Dr. Sherif Emil, mentioned to her parents that there is a minimally invasive surgery that could be performed on their daughter to correct the concave portion of her chest.
“Pectus excavatum, the scientific term of what Kelsey has, can cause cardiac compression and other complications. There used to be only one radical surgery available to correct this, but it involved a big incision, and five- to six-houroperation, often with major blood loss,” says Dr. Sherif Emil, MUHC director of the Division of Pediatric General Surgery. “Today, using thoracoscopic surgery, we make only two small incisions on the sides of the chest, insert a metal bar that lifts the chest, and then we close the small incisions. It takes 1 1/2 hours with minimal blood loss. The bar stays in for three years. Just as braces realign teeth, the rod realigns the chest.”
According to Dr. Emil, this problem can also contribute to social disabilities because it makes a person’s appearance abnormal. Frequently, kids and adults who have this are quite withdrawn. “In a way, this procedure is often mostly cosmetic,” he says, “but it can dramatically change a patient’s life.”
“My wife and I discussed this option with Kelsey and explained everything that the doctor told us. We let her decide,” says Jason
Vickers, Kelsey’s dad. “She chose to go through with it now instead of in the future when it could have already had an impact.
Kelsey looks forward to getting back to her swimming, which she was told could start soon, and to a future with a normal chest wall.