Like most eighth grade boys, Matthew Thompson, of Smithton, loves spending time at the baseball field or at the basketball court taking part in a game.
However, unlike many boys, Thompson’s playing days will be cut short this summer.
On June 10, Thompson is scheduled to have surgery for Pectus Excavatum, a condition that typically occurs in young men and causes the individual’s chest to become concave, creating an oblong cavity or depression in the chest.
“About two or three years ago, I started to notice that it looked like my chest was caving in,” Thompson said. “At first I didn’t think a lot about it but then it started to get deeper and so I looked it up on Google.
“A couple of things popped up when I Googled it and I thought I might have it,” he added. “I talked to my mom and after she looked it up she agreed with me.”
After discussing their son’s symptoms, Thompson’s parents John and Cindy Thompson felt it was necessary to take their son to their family doctor.
“Dr. (Julie) Cahill said Matt had the symptoms of the disorder,” Cindy Thompson said. “She referred us to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas for further tests and Matt’s first Cat-scan.
“The Haller index, which is what is used to determine the severity of the deformity, came back at a 3.0,” she added. “The doctor recommended that we monitor the situation and see if it progressed, ” she added. “He told us that at that stage Matt’s condition wasn’t life-threatening and most insurance companies would not pay for the surgery at that stage.”
The procedure, called the Nuss-Bar Procedure, is only performed at two hospitals in the United States — Children’s Mercy in Kansas and at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter, in Norfolk, Virginia, where it was developed in 1987.
The surgery, which will be performed by Matt’s doctor, Shawn St. Peter, program director for Pediatric Surgery and the Center for Prospective Clinical Trials, involves making an incision along both sides of the rib cage and one down the center of the chest.
A bar is inserted on one side of the chest parallel to the rib cage that runs the width of the chest and a steel bar (plate) is inserted along the sternum.
That bar is formed to the shape of the patient’s chest essentially in the shape of the letter “U,” Matt explained in describing the procedure.
“After the U-shaped bar is inserted the doctor uses a second rod and flips the chest (sternum) flat,” Mat continued. “It’s like an instant repair because the plate along my chest stays there for at least three years and acts kind of like a brace.
“They decided I had to have the surgery now because my condition has gotten worse,” he added. “Last year it was a 3.0 on the index and now it is at a 4.3. They have classified my case as moderate to close to severe.”
The surgery typically takes two to four hours and Matt’s diagnosis comes at a good stage in his development.
“Dr. St. Peter said that if this has to happen, now is a good time because Matt is in really good health and physical condition and typically they want to perform the procedure at a young age while the chest is more pliable,” Cindy said. “Matt grew five inches in the last year.
“Matt’s chest seems to be caving more quickly than it did when we were there a year ago,” she added. “When we saw the doctor in April of this year they told us even though his condition is not life-threatening, they were going to book the surgery immediately.”
The condition can lead to complications with the function of both the heart and lungs in a patient.
“I have noticed that after a ball game I sometimes have a little more trouble breathing and it would be uncomfortable a few hours after the games,” Matt said. “It doesn’t really bug me to look at it; I think it bothers others a lot more.
“I know it has become a lot more noticeable over time this past year,” he added. “I think I could tell it wasn’t normal but until I researched it on the Internet I never really knew it wasn’t normal.”
All of the members of the family, including Matt’s older sisters Aubrey and Konner, said one reason they did not notice the condition was that they really had no occasion to see Matt without a shirt.
“Matt is a red-head and so when he went swimming he always had a tank-top on,” Cindy said. “They have told us that the condition may be genetic in about 25 percent of families.
“I really can’t remember my father having any problems but my brother and one of my nephews do have signs of the condition but it isn’t on John’s side of the family that we know of,” she added. “A lot of people, we have been told, just live with it.”
Cindy said one of the most difficult aspects to the surgery is the pain that patients undergo after the surgery.
“Matt is going to have to stay in the hospital for a week in all likelihood because of the intense pain many patients seem to go through,” Cindy said. “His doctor and nurses will monitor him very closely for that.
“He will miss two games of his baseball season and will have other restrictions placed on him for the next few months and years but they are things that we can accommodate,” she added. “He seems to really be in a good frame of mind considering what he is going to have to go through. We have even joked that things have got to be on his side because who doesn’t want a ‘saint’ (Dr. St. Peter) to operate on them.”
Matt seems to be very optimistic about the procedure and the outcome.
“I plan on playing a lot of video games and eating a lot of ice cream during the upcoming weeks,” he said. “I’ll be out for the next three months from playing sports but hopefully I’ll be back in time for basketball season. My friends who know about it kid me that they can’t elbow me now when we play because there is nothing there for them to hit; hopefully that will change after this.
“I know I am lucky that we found out what it is and that I am so close to one of the hospitals that can perform the surgery,” he added. “It is something we have to go on with and get taken care of so I’m not scared.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484