, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 659-666
Date: 05 Apr 2008

Early complications of the Nuss procedure for pectus excavatum: a prospective study

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The Nuss procedure is a minimally invasive method for the correction of pectus excavatum, with several centers reporting its successful application. Complications related to the Nuss procedure are not uncommon and life-threatening complications have been reported. This study focuses on the incidence and management of complications in a series of 167 children and adults with funnel chest corrected by Nuss procedure. Guidelines and strategies to avoid the most common and typical complications are proposed. All patients with funnel chest, operated between April 2000 and 2006 were evaluated prospectively. Our surgical approach involved the submuscular insertion of the pectus bar under right-sided thoracoscopic control. The bar was secured in most cases with one stabilizer on the right side on the underlying rib to prevent bar displacement. Postoperative pain was primarily managed by epidural catheters. All data in the patient report forms was prospectively entered in a database. All complications were documented and classified into major or minor complication. A major complication was noted, if an organ injury occurred or if a significant surgical intervention became necessary. A minor complication was documented, if either an endoscopy or an evacuation of fluid or gas from the thorax by puncture were necessary. One hundred and sixty seven patients (136 males and 31 females) with a mean age of 16.3 (range 5–40 years) were included in this study. Major complications occurred in seven patients (4.2%) and consisted of one intraoperative heart perforation, one piercing of the liver with the trocar, bar infections (n = 2) and significant bar displacement (n = 3). Minor complications were seen in 122 patients (73.1%) and consisted of breakage of wires used to secure the lateral stabilizer plate (n = 48), pleural effusions (n = 28), intraoperative rupture of the intercostal muscle (n = 15), pericardial tears without clinical significance (n = 7) and lung atelectasia (n = 4). Major complications related to the Nuss procedure were rare but preventable and could mainly be attributed to the learning curve. Most minor complications can be avoided by changing the technique, e.g. fixation of the bar and the stabilizer onto the underlying rib, use of PDS cords instead of metal wires to fix the bar and the stabilizer, entrance into and exit of the thorax medial to the rim of the pectus excavatum, etc. Some complications are related to the technique, such as minor pleural effusion or remaining gas in the thorax. Clear guidelines in regard to the technique are presented to prevent the majority of complications and thereby shorten the learning curve.