Before and After Pictures (SFW, just me without a shirt on)

Inside of my chest, before and after (shows part of my internal organs and how much space the bars created, nothing too gross but avoid if squeamish)

Hello everyone! I’m Ethan, and my goal for this post is to bring awareness to Pectus Excavatum. Many people have it (it affects about every 1 of every 300-500 births) but are unaware that they have it and that it can have harmful effects and is relatively easy and safe to treat. I’ll describe it for those who are unaware of what it is, just skip down a couple paragraphs if you’d like.

I’ll be in the hospital for 3 more days including today, so I’ll have plenty of time to answer any and all questions you may have for a 17 year old with Pectus Excavatum! They don’t all have to be about my condition. Feel free to ask me anything!!! I’d especially love to talk about:

Running (I run cross country and track for my high school, I’m hoping this surgery will increase my VO2 Max and help me become a better runner. I’m so close to breaking 5 in the mile, desperately hoping this will get me there)

College basketball tournament (still mad about the UCF game)

Music (I enjoy hip hop/rap music TA13OO AOTY )

Golf, especially Tiger Woods’ comeback [I missed his match with Rory yesterday bc of my surgery :( ]

Trying to stay positive, persevere, and keep a healthy body image when it would be easy to sulk and give up

Now I’ll talk a bit about Pectus Excavatum and my personal experience.

It’s not imperative that you read all of it if you don’t want to (I know it’s long), but my goal with all of this is to help at least one person with Pectus Excavatum who needs it.

My DMs are open to anyone who anyone who wants to discuss this in private. I know I’m only 17 so I’m not extremely wise yet, but I know this is something I can hopefully make a difference with. Thank you!!! :)


Pectus Excavatum is a relatively common “birth defect” occurring in every 1 in 300-500 people. It occurs when one has a sunken chest caused by a deformity in one’s sternum/chest wall. It is a condition one has since birth, but it gets worse once one hits their growth spurt, during which the Pectus Excavatum grows deeper. The severity of the condition varies from case to case. In the more extreme cases, the dent can push on one’s heart and lungs, causing issues for the person (especially as they grow old and their heart and lungs grow weaker). Pectus Excavatum can also cause back issues and posture issues for some. Many people also seek out surgery for cosmetic reasons.

The look of one’s Pectus Excavatum can be reduced through different physical exercises, which can take a long time and much effort. The main method of surgical treatment is the Nuss procedure. During this procedure, two incisions are made on both sides of the chest, near the ribs. From there, curved metal bars are inserted into the chest to raise the chest wall and create room for the heart and lungs to function properly. Anywhere from 1 to 3 bars can be inserted depending on the height of the person.

OK, now for my personal experience. I first noticed something was wrong during my freshman year of high school. I always knew I had a small dent in my chest, but I just assumed it was insignificant and chalked it up to me being skinny and having small pecs. However, during my Physical Education class, I started to see my shirtless classmates in the locker room, and I realized that no one else’s chest looked like mine did. I hit my first big growth spurt between my freshman and sophomore years, which only caused my chest hole to grow deeper. This is when some of my classmates started to point it out to me. [I have some funny stories about this if you’d like to hear :)] I still just assumed it was a byproduct of being tall and skinny (I was 6”1’ and 130 lbs. at the time). I searched “chest dent” on Google, and that was the first time I discovered what Pectus Excavatum was and realized something may have been wrong.

About 6 months later, during a yearly physical with my doctor, he noticed my chest and asked me about it. Eventually, this led to him contacting the Chest Wall Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. After some breathing tests and an MRI, they determined I needed surgery. They found that my chest dent was not symmetrical and was mainly on the side close to my heart, causing some pressure on my heart, lungs, and liver.

Yesterday afternoon I went through the surgery and now I’m recovering. My chest is very tight at the moment and it is hard to take deep breaths. Once my body gets used to the bars I will be very much better off, but I need to get adjusted first. I’m on a lot of medicine at the moment (through an IV) and I have to undergo a lot of breathing exercises and some light physical therapy before I can head home in a few days. I’ll be out of school for 2-3 weeks as well because my range of motion will be severely limited and I will not be able to use my arms for anything.

If you have any questions about Pectus Excavatum, what the surgery is like, what I went through the day of surgery, what I’m doing now to recover, having and removing a catheter, or any other questions, I’d be glad to answer!! Thank you :)

Edit: Getting a massage (yes, a massage 😍), I’ll answer more questions in a bit. Thank you everyone for the questions!!!

Edit 2: WOW! Thank you for all the messages and the gold! Don’t worry, I’m gonna get to everyone’s questions eventually. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, I really did not expect this much support! Also I’m glad to help anyone who wants to talk or needs advice. Thank you everyone ❤️

Edit 3: Wow, 10k upvotes. Never imagined this would gain this much traction, I’m glad to bring attention to Pectus Excavatum. I’m getting my epidural out tomorrow so I wouldn’t expect too many answers, but I will get to EVERY SINGLE QUESTION AND DM. I mean it. I’m committed to help, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment or DM; I’ll get to all of them. Thank you everyone!! ❤️

Edit 4: I will eventually get to all my posts and DMs. Hospital life is very busy, and I have a lot to answer! I’m headed home in the near future so don’t worry. I’ll get to them all, whether it’s a day late or a week late. Thanks everyone.

If you’re seeing this and you’re worried about your comment being buried, don’t be! I check everything in my inbox. I’m glad to help ❤️

Comments: 2266 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

FunkyTown313935 karma

Favorite hospital food meal?

EthanM_181270 karma

I’ve only had 2 meals so far, so I’d have to say their baked potatoes. They also had Gatorade in a aluminum can which was a very funny experience. I heard hospitals have good chicken tenders so I might have to try that out for lunch!!!! Thank you for your question 👍

TheSimonToUrGarfunkl645 karma

Make sure you have enough good boy points first.

Caps23302 karma

ljwgamer22 karma

Hijacking one of the top comments to respond directly to you:

I’m a 15 year old male with Pectus Excavatum, and I went through a few consultations with different doctors to determine if I needed the surgery or not. They said that I could do it if I wanted to, but it wasn’t necessary, so I don’t have any current plans to go through with it (mine isn’t as extreme as yours). I was just wondering for in the future, in case I go through with it, how long is the overall recovery period? Will you have the bars in for a few years, and how much will that effect things like lifting weights and flexibility? I couldn’t get a very clear answer from all the doctors, so I was hoping you would know.

Thank you for doing this AMA, and I hope you have a speedy recovery!

EthanM_1811 karma

Hey man, I’m really sorry but I don’t know many answers to your questions. I could give you some vague answers but I want you to have all the definite facts first. After my surgery:

No exercise for 3 months No contact sports for 6 months Bars will come out somewhere after at least 2-3 years

Please PM me any questions you have. I’m still in the hospital, and it would be VERY easy to ask a nurse here any questions you may have. Sorry I can’t answer these right away, but i’d be glad to work with you. Thank you for the kind wishes 👍

Edit: 2-3 years! I remembered incorrectly. SORRY!!!!

EvangelineTheodora604 karma

Have you ever eaten cereal out of your dent? I have with mine, just to see if I could.

I didn't have the surgery, but had the option to, and it was when the Ness procedure was brand new, and not many doctors were performing it yet. Still not having it because I'm lucky and haven't had any issues with quality of life.

Just on a side note, look out for other issues, because while not always, funnel chest can be a symptom of a connective tissue disorder.

EthanM_18151 karma

I never tried cereal, but I did try M&M’s. I could fit 101 M&M’s in that bad boy 😎

I’m glad to hear you’re doing well then!! I wish you good luck, hopefully things stay great for you.

I will definitely look into the connective tissue disorder thing, i’d assume I’m good because the doctors have not said anything but I’ll definitely look out for it. Thanks for the concern ❤️ Have a great day man!

cowboydirtydan15 karma

Wow that's a lot of M&Ms

EthanM_1818 karma

I know, it really surprised me!! I bought a “shareable” King-sized pack and thought i’d have extra, but I almost ran out!!

Chubbykat04585 karma

Hey Ethan, thanks for doing the AMA! My brother, 22, has Pectus Excavatum and, after some heart issues recently has been going through the process to see if he has Marfan's. Not an expert but I know Pectus Excavatum, tall, and skinny are some of the most common effects. Have you or your doctors thought of doing any tests to confirm/deny Marfan's?

Also, who do you have winning the Master's?

EthanM_18216 karma

I have heard about Marfan’s at an information session I went to before surgery, I’m guessing I do not have it personally because it was not brought up to me by my doctor. There is definitely a correlation for some people, but I’m not sure what the statistics are. Here’s a link for everyone who has Pectus and wants to check out what Marfan’s Syndrome is. Thank you for your concern!!

Oh man, tough question. I’d like Tiger to win, but I think Francesco Molinari’s got it. I don’t know if that’s a hot take or not but he’s got my support 😂

emptypeter496 karma

Hi Ethan, My daughter is 17 and has this condition. She is very self conscience about its appearance, but also terrified about surgery. What did doctors tell you about the dangers and recovery difficulties?

EthanM_18531 karma

I’ll be completely honest: I’ve felt hardly any pain so far during the entire process. The things I was most worried about regarding the surgery preparations were getting the IV put in and having to deal with a catheter for the first time. Just for reference, I’m at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

The first thing they did when I went into a room with my parents to prep was put the IV in my hand. Ignore the blue wire, that was clipped on to my IV recently to monitor it. First, the nurse gave me some lidocaine in order to numb the pain of the needle. [This is probably something they only have at children’s hospitals, but you don’t have to tell your daughter that :)] The lidocaine was actually really cool; it was “blasted” into the spot where the IV was to be inserted. Basically, it travelled through the vein without an injection and it was totally painless. I looked away while the IV was being inserted, and after about 1 min 3 sec the entire thing was done, and I only really felt a small prick when the IV was inserted. (A second IV was inserted into my right hand while I was put to sleep.)

Second, the catheter. I literally just got it removed 3 minutes before I started writing this. The nurse pulled it out quickly (I requested that she do this) and it stung and burned VERY bad for about a minute, but now it feels completely fine. She said it might burn when I use the restroom next, but other than that it will be fine. This could be very different for your daughter since she is a female; if I had to guess, I would say it would be less painful for her, but that’s just a guess and I have no evidence or research I’ve found to back it up. (Maybe some other female can comment on this?)

Your daughter should not have to worry about any injections or anything besides the IV. All my medicine so far has been through both of my IVs. There is a slight pinch when medicine is injected into the IVs, but it is very tolerable.

Before surgery, a pain doctor told me that there is VERY little chance of anything going wrong with the surgery itself. The doctor I had (Dr. Rebecca Brown) is an expert; she literally had just finished doing the same operation on another boy around my age and height before mine. Since this surgery is kind of rare, all the doctors who perform it are specialists.

The hospital I am at does an excellent job at managing the pain. The only “pain” I’ve had besides the catheter has been tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. They have PLENTY of medicine to help with the tightness; I’ve been taking Valium and some other medicine I do not remember the name of to help with tightness. To help with the breathing, I have to use an incentive spirometer to help my lungs get back to full capacity. I’m supposed to do it 10 times a day, doing 10 inhales for each session, totaling to 100 per day.. I am also taking medicine to help prevent nausea, some to prevent constipation (due to the pain medicines), and also some good ol’ Tylenol. I will be transferring to oral medications soon, which will be good because they will last longer.

Let me know if I can help you with anything else!! My DMs are open :) Good luck!!

Edit: thank you to u/UnicornAffliction: the proper procedure with the incentive spirometer is 10 times per hour, not 10 times per day. I got confused because my nurses are having me do 10 sessions per day, with 10 blows per session. While I was technically telling the truth, I was not very specific. Thank you again for clarifying!!

leonbuxus380 karma

My metal rod is coming out next month :)) Was it medically necessary or just a visual thing ?

EthanM_18474 karma

That’s awesome!!! Go you 👍 it was medical for me, I kinda liked the hole just to stand out but it was pushing on my heart and lungs. The doctor said that it wasn’t urgently needed at the moment, but it would help with my quality of life later on in life. I know a lot of people do it for cosmetics which is totally fine, but I needed it. Thank you!!!

LiquorIBarelyKnowHer114 karma

I had pectus carinatum (chest went out instead of in) surgery at your age. It was painful but 100% worth it.

Just curious - who was your surgeon?

EthanM_1827 karma

I had Dr. Rebecca Brown at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Dr. Brown and Dr. Garcia are the two Pectus Excavatum doctors here, and they are both excellent. They do a lot of research regarding PE and have a lot of experience. I’m glad you’re happy with your surgery!! That gives me hope, I really appreciate it. Thank you 👍

King-Boss-Bob72 karma

I had the surgery almost 2 years ago now (bars are still in) and had quite a lot of side affects. Do you have any of them?

EthanM_1857 karma

I’ve only had them in for about a day and I’ve been on a lot of medicine lately so the only discomfort I’ve really been feeling is tightness and pressure on my chest and shortness of breath. Anything I should look out for in particular?? Thank you!!!!

noire_cotic35 karma

Minimalize sudden movement. I had a surgery 13 years ago and the Bar only lasted in me for 4 months. I grew in that 4 months about 10 centimeters thanks to the late puberty , and left a cool scoliosis behind. The Bar pierced my right side. Look after for yourself. Be careful at sports, it’s not a game. I’ve never redone the surgery, and wont do it again. i wont say good luck, I’ll say be strong and Keep it up 😉 lift some weights but carefully, it’ll Boost the results up!!

EthanM_185 karma

I’m sorry you had to go through all that, that sounds painful :/ I’ll try to be extra careful then. Thank you for the advice! 👍

Legoman8637 karma

How is your recovery going OP? Is it painful to laugh?

Pectus excavatum runs in my family. Two of my four brothers had this surgery to prevent their chest from pressing on their heart and lungs. They are both much happier now and more confident at the pool and in general (both were made fun of endlessly in school). I have pectus carinatum myself aka pigeon chest. I was also made fun of growing up but as I got older and added some chest muscle, it was less noticeable and looked like I had bigger pecs than I did!

Some friendly advice..

Stay on top of your lung blower thing. One of them wasn’t diligent about doing it everyday and paid the price in pain later.

When you go home make sure you are taking your stool softener regularly. The insane amount of pain meds they have you on are going to plug you up good. The same brother that neglected the lung capacity tester also didn’t go #2 for 3 weeks after only eating gold fish and cinnamon toast waffles. When he finally did we all knew it because of the guttural screams echoing through our two story home.

Good luck in recovery man!

EthanM_1817 karma

Holy cow, it is painful to laugh!! I did NOT expect laughing to cause me pain at all!! I’m glad you can relate somewhat 😂 Dang, I read that and almost started laughing, barely held it off though :)

I’m glad you’ve persevered and used your “disability” to your advantage!! I’m glad your brothers had a positive experience, that’s very comforting.

I mayyyy have been putting off my blower thing while answering these questions, I’ll take a break after this one to do it. I’ve got 4/10 for the day so far, I’ll be halfway after this one 💪

Hahahaha I told my parents that story about your brother and they’re cracking up, quit making me laugh dude!!! Don’t worry, I’ve been taking tons of laxatives, I had to have miralax every day for 3 days before, and they’re giving me tons of miralax and other laxative pills lately. I haven’t been #2 yet (just got my catheter out a few hours ago, it hurt so bad!!!), so hopefully things will go smoothly. Thank you for your anecdotes, that was really comforting. Thank you so much man!! 👍

randolph5131 karma

Wow and wow. Glad you made it through and good luck on recovery and the sub 5 min mile.

How many times have you yelled “PECTUS EXCAVATUM!”?

EthanM_1815 karma

Thank you!!! I haven’t reached sub 5 yet :( that’s my ultimate goal. I only got to run in 2 track meets this year, and my best time so far this year was 5:14. I’m a junior in HS right now so I’m hoping this surgery will help me improve for next year.

To be honest, I haven’t really told many people about this until I found I was going to have surgery, so my PECTUS EXCAVATUM!!!! count is 0 😂 I guess I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or look down on me. Now that I have more room to breathe I can surprise everyone 💪😤💪

OmnipotenceUprising31 karma

Hi Ethan, I've also got this, noticed at the age of 13 in similar circumstances to how you describe. I would say mine is less prominent than yours however. When I go running long distances I often get pain in my heart region of the chest. Do you experience something like this also? Thanks for doing this AMA.

EthanM_1810 karma

If you’re having chest pains I would definitely go see a doctor. I never really had chest pain while I was running, it was more breathing issues for me. Just because yours might be less prominent doesn’t mean it’s less severe. I would definitely go talk to a doctor or an adult about it. I think it could definitely help you become a better runner!! Good luck dude 👍

presidentsama29 karma

Hey Ethan! What was the procedure like? I have a cat with this condition and we did surgery on him when he was little to help correct it. We essentially put sutures through his chest around the point of the defect and attached them to an external cast for tension. Just wondering how similar this is in animals and humans! I hope you have a speedy recovery!

Edit: cat tax!

EthanM_184 karma

First off, I love your cat! I showed my entire family and visitors here, that is so awesome.

Here is the official video from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital of the Nuss procedure I received. It doesn’t show any blood, but some people find it unsettling or gross so just a warning. It’s kinda weird thinking this just happened to me...

Thank you for your well wishes!! 👍

bookwormduck23 karma

Fellow runner here! I wish you good luck on recovery and getting back on the roads. I am in my first year of college, and I really miss my team. Now for the million dollar question-cross country or track? And what track distance do you think is the hardest? What brand of shoes do you wear? (this question has a correct answer)

EthanM_1815 karma

Oh gosh, I think I’ll have to go with cross country. I enjoy the team aspect a lot in cross country, but that might just be a personal thing for my school.

I’d say the 800 is the hardest track event. I personally do distance in track, so the 800 is extremely tough because it’s basically a full out sprint. The 3200 might be the toughest mentally, my team went to an indoor meet a few weeks ago and my friend ran the 3200 on a 200 m track, it was hilarious to watch but he said it was so boring and so hard to stay focused 😂

Brooks is the only way to go with shoes in my humble opinion... they’re the only running shoes I’ve ever worn and I love them. Most running shoes are great, so if you don’t agree with me i’d be more than happy to try out whatever kind of shoes you like best 👍 Thank you for the questions!! I love talking running so thanks a lot. Have a good day man!!

dardanian21 karma

Hey man, how are the nurses treating ya? Remember when I had a surgery, they were very cold and indifferent towards me haha.

EthanM_1840 karma

The nurses are VERY nice so far, I’ve had a lot coming in and out and they’ve all been great. I’m sorry to hear that, I think they have to be extra nice here since I’m at a children’s hospital. It’s nice because there’s a lot of snack food on the menu and plenty of good food, but I can’t fit on any of the beds since I’m 6’3” so that’s the only downside. Thank you!!!!!

rasqi16 karma

Did you like the hospital food? I was just in the hospital for a week and the food was pretty damn good.

EthanM_1816 karma

I’m sorry to hear that, I’m glad you got to have some good food!! I’ve only had 2 meals so far but I’ve had cantaloupe with both and it has been outstanding!! Thanks for your question!!

-jezebelebezej-12 karma

Good morning, Ethan! I am glad the surgery went well and you are in recovery mode. I have a 17 year old brother who has THE same exact condition with your similar build (tall and skinny, athletic). I am not sure if my parents have discussed surgery, but I am also not certain how extreme his particular case is.

Would you happen to have some advice for me to give him if he ever goes through this surgery?

EthanM_187 karma

That’s pretty cool! First off, if you do decide to go through with surgery, let me know. I’d be happy to talk to him, or at least give you some extra advice to give to him. (Side note while I’m thinking of this: you’re an awesome sibling!! I’m sure your brother would be very proud to know that you’re looking out for him. Good work 🙏)

My first piece of advice would be to not be scared. A lot of people go through this every year, and I’d go out on a limb and say your brother is tougher than most of them. If I can do it, he definitely can!! I made a comment earlier about how painless a lot of the process is, and I don’t mind repeating: getting the IV put in was even less painful than a flu shot. The doctor gave me some lidocaine before putting the IV in, and the way he did it was extremely cool: it was almost like a blast of air over the back of my hand (the future site of the IV). There was no injection or anything for the lidocaine, it felt just like a blast of air. (My family thinks that this was only available because I’m at a children’s hospital, but it might be common, I’m not sure.) I looked away, felt a small prick less painful than a flu shot, and the IV was in. Another IV was put in when I was asleep under the anesthesia, and now that I’m awake, all the medicine I receive comes through the IV.

Another concern he might have is the catheter. The catheter was put in while I was asleep under the anesthesia, so I just woke up with it in. It was extremely painful when the nurse ripped it out. (She asked if I was ready, I said yes, she pulled it out quick and we were done.) It burned for about a minute and then it felt great, no more burning at all, even when using the restroom. Sorry if that’s TMI, but that might be a concern of his, and it shouldn’t really be.

Other than that: the pain really isn’t bad, I heard it will get worse soon once they take out my epidural. I trust that your brother will be tough and will do excellent if he decides to go through with surgery. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any other advice or if he has any other specific questions!! Wish him good luck for me, and keep on being a great sibling 👍

cualina7 karma

Hey, what's your fav ice cream flavour?

EthanM_1812 karma

Great question, I’ll probably have to go with chocolate. I like a lot of flavors but you can’t go wrong with the classic 😉 Thank you for your question, I think the hospital has ice cream so I’ll be thinking of you when I eat it!!! 👍

Deplete15 karma

Hey Ethan! Thanks for the topless pic? Haha anyway on a scale of one to ten, how much pain/discomfort are you in?

EthanM_1811 karma

I’d say around a 4, mostly just tightness in the chest and trouble taking a deep breath. Thank you for asking!!! I got up from the bed and sat in the chair for the first time and that was tough, the amount of pain surprised me but it was tolerable. Thanks for the question!! 👍