Three-dimensional computed tomography for evaluation and management of children with complex chest wall anomalies: useful information or just pretty pictures?

J Pediatr Surg. 2011 Apr;46(4):640-647. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2010.10.013.


Purpose: Shaded surface display (SSD) technology, with 3-dimensional computed tomography reconstruction, has been reported in a few small series of patients with congenital or acquired chest wall deformities. Shaded surface display images are visually attractive and educational, but many institutions are hesitant to use these secondary to cost and image data storage concerns. This study was designed to assess the true value of SSD to the patient, family, and operating surgeon, in the evaluation and management of these children.

Methods: After institutional review board approval, we performed a retrospective review of records of 82 patients with chest wall deformities, evaluated with SSD, from 2002 to 2009. Shaded surface display usefulness, when compared to routine 2-dimensional computed tomography, was graded on a strict numerical scale from 0 (added no value besides education for the patient/family) to 3 (critical for surgical planning and patient management).

Results: There were 56 males and 26 females. Median age was 15.3 years (range, 0.6-41.1 years). Deformities included 56 pectus excavatum, 19 pectus carinatum, and 8 other/mixed deformities. Six patients also had acquired asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy (AATD). Eleven (13%) had previous chest wall reconstructive surgery. In 25 (30%) patients, SSD was useful or critical. Findings underappreciated on 2-dimensional images included sternal abnormalities (29), rib abnormalities (28), and heterotopic calcifications (7). Shaded surface display changed or influenced operation choice (4), clarified bone vs soft tissue (3), helped clarify AATD (3), and aided in rib graft evaluation (2). Point biserial correlation coefficient analysis (R(pb)) displayed significance for SSD usefulness in patients with previous chest repair surgery (R(pb) = 0.48, P ≤ .001), AATD (R(pb) = 0.34, P = .001), pectus carinatum (R(pb) = 0.27, P = .008), and females (R(pb) = 0.19, P = .044).

Conclusions: Shaded surface display, when used to evaluate children and young adults with congenital or acquired chest wall deformities, provides useful or critical information for surgical planning and patient management in almost one third of patients, especially in those requiring a second operation, with acquired asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy, pectus carinatum, and females.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Multiple / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / surgery
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Funnel Chest / diagnostic imaging*
  • Funnel Chest / surgery
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods
  • Preoperative Period
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Wall / abnormalities*
  • Thoracic Wall / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Wall / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult