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The USA Health pediatric surgery program is the only provider of cryoneurablation for pectus excavatum in the region and one of only a few hospitals in the country that use the procedure.

Published Feb 19th, 2020

By Lindsay Mott
lmott@health.southalabama.edu

In spring 2019, 18-year-old Lane Frazier started having chest pains in relation to a sunken chest deformity. A doctor’s visit revealed that his heart had moved, and he needed to have his chest wall fixed to avoid further health complications.

The traditional Nuss Procedure is known to be painful and have a prolonged recovery period, but with the addition of the cutting-edge cryoneurablation pain control modality at USA Health, Frazier was able to have the surgery in April and finish high school in May.

The USA Health pediatric surgery program is the only provider of cryoneurablation for pectus excavatum in the region and one of only a few hospitals in the country that use the procedure.

Cryoneuroablation uses nitrogen ice to freeze the nerves to numb the area to reduce pain. According to Hanna Alemayehu, M.D., pediatric surgeon and assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, patients are very numb within the first 24 hours, and this gradually decreases over time.

Research shows that cryoneuroablation reduces hospital stays from an average of four days to one day, and time on narcotics is decreased from 18 days to eight days on average compared to traditional pain control methods. This allows students to return to school sooner.

Sunken chest typically is a condition children are born with and is more common in boys. It is mild until puberty and then becomes more significant, impacting exercise tolerance and breathing as well as body image and self-esteem, said Alemayehu. This is typically when surgery is performed.

“As a pediatric surgeon, your goal is to repair problems that children are born with and to provide a quality of life that is excellent for their whole life,” Alemayehu said. “The fact that we can now provide a repair that will impact the rest of their lives - how much they exercise and their body image - while not subjecting them to long hospital stays or long-term narcotic use risk and the consequences of that, that is just outstanding.”

Frazier started having chest pains in early 2019. Frazier’s chest wall had sunken to the point of almost hitting his back bone, causing his heart to move, which could have caused heart failure if not corrected.

He was evaluated at USA Health, and the surgery was scheduled for April 2019. Frazier was able to return to high school at the end of May and graduate from Flomaton High School. He was also able to soon return to work as a landscaper and enroll in a local community college.

“It’s something I can put behind me because it’s something I was ashamed of having. I didn’t like the look of it,” Frazier said. “Now, I don’t have to worry about it causing more damage than it already has. That’s the benefit of it all.”

The USA Health Chest Wall Reconstruction Clinic provides innovative, less painful treatment of pectus excavatum, pectus carinatum and other chest wall conditions including Jeune Syndrome, Poland Syndrome and Jarcho-Levin Syndrome. To make an appointment, call 251- 415-1475.

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