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2005: Surgeon Relieves Pressure of Deformity for Local Teen
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Surgeon Relieves Pressure of Deformity for Local Teen

Pediatric Thoracic Surgeon Relieves Pressure of Congenital Deformity for Local Teen

Winfield, Ill., March 9, 2005 - Susan Woodward of Wheaton once described her son’s congenital chest wall deformity to be so concave that he would eat milk and cereal from the bowl-like depression left by the abnormal bone and cartilage growth. Today, thanks to a breakthrough surgical procedure, Brent Woodward no longer feels the anxiety and discomfort associated with the condition known as Pectus Excavatum.

Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgeon, Grant Geissler, MD performed the Thoracoscopy Pectus Nuss procedure on Brent Woodward, age 17 on December 23, 2004 at Central DuPage Hospital--the first time the procedure has been performed in DuPage County. Previously, pediatric Pectus Excavatum patients interested in a correction would travel to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, or undergo a more invasive reconstructive surgery.

“Until I met one of Dr Geissler’s patients last year, we had no idea this kind of solution was available,” said Mrs. Woodward, a surgical nurse at Central DuPage Hospital. “We are grateful for modern medicine and appreciate the new opportunities this correction provides Brent.”

The Nuss procedure is a complex but minimally invasive surgical solution pioneered by Donald Nuss, MD in 1997. In 1998, Dr. Geissler performed the first Nuss procedure in Illinois at Children’s Memorial Hospital with the assistance of Dr. Nuss. Mrs. Woodward asked Dr. Geissler to perform the Nuss correction on her son at Central DuPage Hospital where he could recover close to home, at a hospital where her family was comfortable.

Local access to pediatric specialists like Dr. Geissler is critical. Central DuPage Hospital and Children's Memorial Hospital recently announced plans to formally partner on a premier, comprehensive regional pediatric care program to be located at Central DuPage Hospital. ‘Children's Memorial at CDH’ will bring the full resources and expertise of Chicago’s only U.S. News & World Report-top-ten-rated children’s hospital to Central DuPage Hospital’s campus.

“With this procedure, it is critical to have an experienced pediatric team in place to care for the patient during treatment and recovery,” says Dr. Geissler. “Central DuPage Hospital has an outstanding staff of pediatric anesthesiologists, and, in this case, Dr. Chris Espinosa, provided effective and appropriate pain management for this patient throughout the continuum of his care.” While the surgery is minimally invasive, the post-surgical experience is painful as the patient’s chest cavity is being forcibly repositioned, he explains.

Dr. Geissler likens the Nuss procedure to braces inside the thoracic cavity: “Like braces, pressure and time result in a correction in the growth and shape of the chest wall.” Also like braces, the stainless steel bar is removed after two years. “By the time the bar is removed, the chest wall has learned its new position and the correction is permanent,” explains Dr. Geissler.

The bar is custom-sized and bent from the center out to either end to mirror the corrective curve of the patient’s chest wall. The bar is inserted in the concave position, through small incisions on either side of the patient’s chest and guided by a thorascope through a skin tunnel in the thoracic cavity. Once in position, the bend in the bar is inverted, applying convex pressure on the sternum.

Pectus Excavatum occurs in an estimated one in 300-400 births. While the condition is noticeable at birth, a worsening of the appearance of the chest and the onset of associated symptoms become more pronounced during the time of rapid bone growth in the early teenage years. Because the sternum often presses uncomfortably against the lungs and heart of Pectus Excavatum patients, the surgery enables some patients to experience an increase in pulmonary functions.

“This procedure is far more than cosmetic because it repairs a congenital deformity that impacts quality of life for thousands of teens and adults living with this condition,” explains Dr. Geissler. “It often provides a life-altering change for patients who have experienced intense anxiety and avoidance behavior due to the severity of their condition. For others, there is also an added benefit of increased respiratory function they never realized they were missing.”

As far as Brent and his mother are concerned, the surgery was a complete success. She credits the surgery with an improvement in an asthma condition that had him hospitalized last fall. Brent is walking taller and lifting weights. “He’s loving life and feeling good about himself, which wasn’t always the case before the surgery,” said Mrs. Woodward.

The procedure can also benefit adults; however the bones and cartilage of a younger patient tend to be more flexible. Dr. Geissler has successfully performed more than 70 Nuss procedures since 1998 on patients as young as six years old.

Dr. Geissler is acutely aware of the physiological and psychological challenges that children and teens face who live with an extreme case of Pectus Excavatum. “It’s important that these patients and their families know that there are accessible and reasonable solutions for the condition here in their community.”