When you feel pain in your chest, your whole body goes on alert. And, of course, your mind starts racing with thoughts of heart attacks and hospitals. Add extreme fatigue to the mix and you know something’s wrong — but what? If you’re thinking pectus excavatum, you might be right.
Getting to the bottom of these alarming symptoms is our job and our passion here at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates.
Our team of experts has vast experience diagnosing and treating a wide array of common and uncommon conditions that affect your lungs, veins, and arteries and the support systems around them.
If you’re experiencing chest pain and fatigue, we encourage you to come see us right away to get an accurate diagnosis and begin a customized treatment plan.
Should I be worried if I have chest pain and fatigue?
Like a car’s dashboard, your body alerts you to trouble within. When your car’s symptoms are nonspecific, like if it idles fast or feels sluggish, you take it to a mechanic to find out what’s wrong.
Likewise, chest pain and fatigue are signals that something’s wrong, but it’s not an automatic cause for worry. These two symptoms together can mean you have:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Heart disease
- Pectus excavatum
Trying to figure out on your own exactly what’s causing your discomfort is risky. If you have a serious condition and you ignore it or misdiagnose it yourself, you could be headed for a heart attack.
Could my symptoms mean pectus excavatum?
Yes, fatigue and chest pain are two symptoms of pectus excavatum, a condition that causes a deformity in your chest wall. But one thing that makes pectus excavatum stand out from the list of heart disease symptoms is the signature sunken chest.
More common in men than women, pectus excavatum happens when your ribs and breastbone develop abnormally. No one knows why this happens to some and not others, but it does tend to run in families. It could be present at birth or show up years later during adolescence.
The reason you feel pain and fatigue with pectus excavatum is that your concave chest wall is crowding your heart and lungs, causing these other potential symptoms as well:
- Low tolerance for exercise
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart murmur
- Frequent coughing or wheezing
If these symptoms are either nonexistent or barely noticeable, your pectus excavatum is primarily a cosmetic issue. But in severe cases, pectus excavatum can significantly hinder your heart and lung function, and then treatment becomes necessary.
Can pectus excavatum be fixed?
Chest wall surgery is highly effective at correcting your sunken chest and freeing up some space for your heart and lungs. We offer three procedures depending on your condition, your age, and your goals.
The Ravitch technique
If your pectus excavatum is the result of an overgrowth of cartilage that’s pulling your ribs inward, the Ravitch procedure is the traditional approach. We remove the excess cartilage, move your ribs and breastbone back into a normal position, and insert a titanium rod to support the new contour of your chest wall.
The Nuss procedure
When tissue removal isn’t necessary, we perform the Nuss procedure, which is much less invasive and is guided by video thoracoscopy. Again, we insert titanium bars and stitch them in place to maintain the integrity of your rommier chest wall. See a brief video of the procedure here.
Uniportal video-assisted thoracic surgery (Uni-VATS)
This procedure is very similar to the Nuss procedure, except it only requires one incision. During your consultation and evaluation, we let you know if you’re eligible for this type of surgery.
What to do if you suspect pectus excavatum
In addition to the physical symptoms of pectus excavatum, there are also some emotional and mental effects to consider.
The deep divot can cause severe body-image issues, which can lead to depression and isolation. Even if your physical symptoms are mild, surgery may still be warranted to avoid the negative social ramifications and self-esteem issues.
All chest wall surgeries are most effective on younger patients (puberty is ideal, as the body is still growing), but these procedures are very effective for adults as well — the results are successful and permanent 99% of the time.
Recovery can take up to six weeks, and pain can be managed by oral medication or temporary nerve blocks.
To find out more about pectus excavatum and whether your symptoms point to this condition, contact us by phone or online to schedule a consultation with our team.
We have multiple offices in New York in Pomona, Goshen, Fishkill, and the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, as well as Englewood, New Jersey.