While chest pain is often thought to be a symptom associated to heart disease, it is also one of the most common symptoms related to chest wall diseases. Besides seeing patients for cardiac pain, the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) sees patients for chest wall diseases, a group of conditions affecting the rib cage and overlying muscles.The chest wall includes the rib cage as well as the muscles protecting the underlying lung and heart. It can be affected by a variety of diseases including arthritis, infections or tumours. For tumours, they can be treated with surgical resection for long term cure. Reconstruction of the chest wall is also important to regain the shape of the chest both in terms of cosmesis and chest wall function.
Pectus excavatum (PE) or pectus carinatum (PC) are two conditions which led to deformity of the chest wall. PE results in a deep cavity at the front of the chest while PC results in a protrusion instead, also called ‘pigeon chest’. These deformities can result in decreased heart or lung function. Although more common in children, some may develop negative self-esteem from the deformity as they approach their teens. Repair of the deformities may be done minimally invasively or by an open method at NHCS.
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