Funnel chest is a term used to describe the medical condition known as Pectus excavatum (PE), a deformity of the chest wall that occurs in one of every thousand children. “It is well known that children with PE are affected by their body image, that they often experience embarrassment, have low self-esteem and feelings of stigma,” said Susanne Habelt of the Department of Pediatric Surgery at the University Children’s Hospital in Basle, Switzerland. “These psychological criteria influence the patient’s life deeply.” She added that although recent studies have looked at how surgery affects the quality of these children’s lives, few researchers have examined the psychological symptoms related to PE, both before and after surgery. “With this as background the aim of our evaluation was to perform an extended psychological status in order to establish a psychological indication for treatment,” said Habelt.
Habelt and her colleagues examined 10 adolescents with PE for their study. The teens underwent physical and psychological evaluations and were all offered their choice of invasive surgery to correct the deformity, or non-invasive vacuum treatment to extend their chest wall. The parents and teens were asked about psychological stress, anxiety, shyness and self-esteem resulting from the PE. “Overall, 8 patients had psychological limitations especially concerning the dimensions attractiveness, self-esteem and somatization,” said Habelt. “Eight children shied away from presenting their body for instance when going swimming or doing sports. This resulted in in-creased insecurity, anxiety and denegation of their own body.”
Habelt noted that the results were not surprising. “It is well known that patients with PE often experience embarrassment and shame over the perceived differences in their physical appearance and that this can lead to lowered self-concept, feelings of inferiority, depression, shyness and social anxiety.” She added, “We therefore recommend working together with psychologists to extend the indications for therapy of PE to psychological problems. Thus, it is possible to gain information in several dimensions especially attractiveness, self-esteem and social life which affect the patients in all areas of life.”
Habelt, Susanne, Stephanie Korn, Angelika Berger, and Jozef Bielek. “Psychological Distress in Patients with Pectus Excavatum as an Indication for Therapy.” International Journal of Clinical Medicine 2.3 (2011): 295-300. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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