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Teen Undergoes Surgery to Repair Congenital Condition Pectus Excavatum

Photograph of Brock looking healthy
Brock, U of U Health patient, after surgery for pectus excavatum

When Brock Jones took his shirt off at a pool party with some friends last summer, he didn't think twice about his sunken chest cavity—until a friend pointed it out.

"Why is there a big hole in your chest?" Brock's friend asked in front of everyone at the party.

He looked down and then compared his chest with his friends; nobody else's chest looked anything like Brock's.

He said, "That's when I realized it wasn't normal."

Brock relayed the story to his mom, and while they were at an appointment for Brock's broken thumb, they inquired about his sunken chest cavity. The nurse told them it was a relatively common congenital chest wall deformity called pectus excavatum, occurring in approximately one of every 150–1,000 births. The nurse referred them Katie Russell, MD, a pediatric surgeon with University of Utah Health.

Brock and his mom met with Russell and learned about the repair surgery for pectus excavatum, which involves the surgeon inserting a curved bar through a small incision and carefully placing it beneath the sunken breastbone. The bar stays in the body for two years, allowing the breastbone to lift and grow properly.

That fixes the sunken chest cavity, which can cause breathing trouble and in some cases, pain in the chest and back—not to mention feelings of self-consciousness and anxiety for kids and teenagers.

"I decided right then and there that I wanted to do the surgery," Brock said.

Brock talking with Katie Russell, MD
Brock talking with Katie Russell, MD

Brock had pectus excavatum repair surgery over Christmas break, which allowed him more recovery time without missing school.

"I was in the hospital Friday and came home Monday," he said. "I expected to be in a lot more pain. They constantly monitored my pain levels and I had a good experience at the hospital."

Brock was back in school by mid-January but taking it easy. He had to scale back from his typical action-packed routine of soccer, swimming, and carrying bags and books around, but he said it was definitely worth it.

"I'm so happy that I actually did the surgery," he said.

When asked about the biggest difference since his surgery, he said it was his confidence: "I was at a friend's house in the hot tub and I took off my shirt and I didn't feel uncomfortable about it at all."

He has since returned to the soccer field and swimming pool with his friends and considers the surgery to be a game-changer. Brock would encourage other kids with his condition to do it without hesitation.