• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Scarlett is running and smiling after surgery to correct pectus excavatum

July 25, 2021

When Sara Hutchins noticed an indent in her daughter Scarlett’s chest, she immediately recognized the cause: pectus excavatum, a condition that causes the breast bone to sink into the chest. “My father had the same condition,” Sara says. “He’d had surgery to correct it but was never satisfied with his results.”

Sara wanted to ensure that if Scarlett had surgery, she’d like what she saw in the mirror afterward. “I did a lot of research,” Sara says. That research led her to Mayo Clinic, where a team of surgeons typically treats more than 1,000 adults and children with pectus excavatum each year.

“We have extensive experience with minimally invasive pectus excavatum repair, which we began offering in the 1990s,” Dean Potter Jr., M.D., a pediatric surgeon, says. Mayo surgeons have received training on that repair, called the Nuss procedure, from the physician who developed it. “We have a special relationship with Dr. Nuss as he is a Mayo surgical fellowship graduate,” Dr. Potter says.

In January 2017, Sara and Scarlett traveled from their home in South Carolina to Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn. to meet with Dr. Potter. He examined Scarlett, then 9, and learned that as the depression in her chest had deepened over the years, it was becoming harder for her to breathe when she ran. That’s a common symptom in patients with severe pectus excavatum, as the condition can compress the heart and lungs.

Dr. Potter determined Scarlett was a good candidate for the Nuss procedure. But he recommended she wait until she was a bit older — ideally between 12 and 14, after much of her growth had occurred — to have surgery. That would ensure that the curved metal bar inserted into the chest to raise the breastbone would not need to be upsized if she had a major growth spurt.

Read the rest of Sara's story on Sharing Mayo Clinic.