Your child had surgery to correct pectus excavatum. This is a deformity of the front of the chest wall that causes a sunken breastbone (sternum) and ribs.
There is now a metal bar or strut that goes across the front of your child’s chest cavity. It will stay in place for about 2 - 3 years.
Your child should walk often during the day to build up strength. You may need to help your child get in and out of bed during the first 1 - 2 weeks after surgery.
During the first month at home, your child should:
Always bend over at the hips.
Sit up straight to help keep the bar in place. Do NOT let your child slouch.
NOT roll onto either side.
Your child should not use a backpack or carry more than about 5 pounds for at least the first 2 months.
Your child should avoid vigorous activity and contact sports for 6 weeks to 3 months. After that, activity is good because it improves growth of the chest and strengthens the chest muscles. Ask your child’s doctor when your child can be more active again.
Your child can return to school after 2 - 3 weeks.
It may be more comfortable for your child to sleep partly sitting up in a recliner for the first 2 - 4 weeks after surgery.
It is okay for your child to have baths. Most dressings (bandages) will be removed by the time your child leaves the hospital. There may still be small white strips called Steri-Strips across the wounds. Leave these in place. They will fall off on their own. You may see a small amount of drainage on the strips. This is normal.
Your child should have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon about 2 weeks after surgery. Other doctor visits will be needed while the metal bar or strut is still in place. Your child will have another surgery to remove the bar or strut. This surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis.
Your child should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace while the metal bar or strut is in place. The surgeon can give you more information about this.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the doctor or nurse if your child has:
A fever over 101.0 °F
Increased swelling, pain, drainage, or bleeding from the wounds
Severe chest pain
Shortness of breath
Nausea or vomiting
Change in the way the chest looks since the surgery
Sugarbaker DJ, Lukanich JM. Chest Wall and Pleura. In: Townsend Jr. CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL. Townsend: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 57.
Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Department of Pediatric Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.