Why would this procedure be needed?

While the Ravitch procedure is done very seldom these days, it may be required for older patients with the chest deformity, pectus excavatum. Pectus excavatum is a defect in which the cartilage that holds the ribs to the breastbone is abnormal, causing the chest to look sunken or caved in.

Pectus excavatum often causes difficulty with exercise and physical activities due to breathing problems, fatigue, chest pain, rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations and frequent respiratory infections. Depending on the severity of the deformity symptoms can range from mild to severe. Beyond the health complications, this deformity can cause issues with self-esteem due to the appearance of the chest. For these reasons, Dr Schewitz may suggest corrective surgery.

How is this procedure done?

The Ravitch procedure is done by making an incision into the chest to remove the defective cartilage. The breastbone (sternum) is then moved into its correct position, which may require it to be fractured. For more complex deformities, a mesh support structure may be used. The removed cartilage will regrow in the next 4-6 weeks.

What can be expected after surgery in terms of recovery?

Following the Ravitch procedure, you will stay in the hospital for observation for the next week. Before you go home, Dr Schewitz will prescribe you pain medication and tell you how to care for your incisions. In two weeks you will have a follow-up with him to ensure you are healing and recovering as you should. For the next 6 weeks, you will need to do breathing exercises. You will need to avoid any excessive physical activity, sports, driving or heavy lifting while you heal.