Children's Hospital Colorado

Nuss Procedure for Pectus Excavatum

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What is the Nuss procedure?

The Nuss procedure is used to treat children with pectus excavatum, or “funnel chest". The purpose of the procedure is to realign a depressed sternum and support it with a specially designed metal bar. The Nuss procedure provides the psychological advantage of improving a child’s self-esteem as well as improved cardiopulmonary function, which means they are able to breathe better and they have improved blood circulation through the heart.

What to expect from the Nuss procedure

The Nuss procedure has all the benefits of a minimally invasive procedure, which involves smaller incisions so the chance of an infection is minimal, and the recovery time is relatively short. The procedure is done under general anesthesia and takes about two hours. It usually requires three or four small incisions – two one-inch incisions for the bar and one or two quarter-inch incisions for the camera. During the procedure, the depressed sternum is popped into place and supported with a metal bar. Your doctor will use a small camera called a thoracoscope to ensure that the heart and lungs remain protected throughout the procedure.

What to expect after the Nuss procedure

General recovery time for the procedure is a hospital stay of 2 to 5 days. Your child’s doctor will prescribe medication for the pain following the procedure and may also follow up with physical therapy in the weeks or months following the procedure. Most children return to school in a few weeks and resume normal activity about one month after the operation.

The support bar that is inserted during the procedure usually remains inside the chest for two to four years after the initial procedure. Your doctor will schedule follow-up visits for every 3 to 6 months to monitor your child’s progress. The procedure to remove the support bar is much simpler than the initial procedure and is usually completed as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia. Most patients will only need pain medication for about 2 to 3 days after the procedure and can usually return to full activity after about two weeks.

Why choose us to treat pectus excavatum?

The pediatric surgeons at Children’s Colorado are dedicated to pediatric care and often use minimally invasive surgical techniques to lessen the pain and discomfort of surgery for children. Our surgeons have performed the Nuss procedure many times, for a range of mild to severe pectus excavatum, with excellent results. If you have questions about the procedure or would like to schedule an appointment, please call the Department of Pediatric Surgery at 720-777-6571.