Metal bar helps teens with concave chest - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Metal bar helps teens with concave chest

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UNDATED (WJRT) - (06/16/14) - One in 500 kids are born with a condition called concave chest.

For many teens,  it's an embarrassing condition to live with.

Imagine being a teenage boy, living at the beach, and not having enough confidence to take your shirt off - or not having enough energy to even take a walk.

Doctors are helping teens just like that turn things around, and regain their confidence.

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

"I couldn't do any strenuous activity because like my heart, you could see my heart beating through my skin," Thomas said.
  
Thomas suffered from pectus excavatum - or concave chest. Thomas' chest was sinking in, pressing on his lungs, and his heart was zapping his energy and his confidence.

"People would be like, 'Oh, I can eat cereal out of your chest,'" Thomas said.

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

"It's basically putting a metal bar under the sternum and it remodels the sternum, much like braces," Burnweit said.

Doctors cut a small incision on both sides of Thomas' 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," Burnweit said.

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 reheal. The recovery time was months.

With the bar procedure, Thomas was able to leave in five days and was back to daily activities in just one month.

 "I feel a lot better, I feel more healthy, I've gained weight, and I feel better about myself," Thomas said.
 
The bar is taken out in three to four years. A smaller number of kids suffer from a condition known as  pigeon chest - where the chest bulges out and is easily treated with a brace.

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