Patients who have had the chest wall deformity known as pectus excavatum corrected report marked improvement in physical stamina and body image. This according to a recent study conducted at 11 North American hospitals, published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“These result should prompt physicians to consider both the emotional and physical implications of correcting pectus excavatum,” says lead author Robert Kelly, MD, a professor of clinical surgery and pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Va. “For too long, many in the medical community dismissed pectus excavatum as a merely cosmetic issue, but correcting pectus excavatum has concrete physical and psychological benefits.”

The study involved more than 200 patients between the ages of 8 and 21 who had pectus excavatum surgery. The patients and their parents who were interviewed reported dramatic improvement in body image and a great decrease in problems with exercise.

“One of the most interesting things we discovered was that there was not a direct correlation between the severity of the defect and the degree of improvement in body image,” says Kelly. “Even patients with mild deformities experienced significant improvement in body image.”