Objective: To determine whether pectus excavatum (PE) results in cardiopulmonary abnormalities, and whether surgical repair results in improvement.
Methods: We performed pulmonary function testing and incremental exercise testing in 36 adolescents with PE (aged 16 +/- 3 (SD) years) and 10 age-matched, healthy control subjects. Fifteen PE subjects were reexamined postoperatively, as were six control subjects.
Results: Preoperatively, PE subjects had a significantly lower forced vital capacity than control subjects had (81% +/- 14% vs 98% +/- 9% of the predicted value; p < 0.001). Chest computed tomography ratios of internal transverse to antero-posterior diameters correlated inversely with total lung capacity (r = 0.56; p < 0.01). Fifty-eight percent of PE subjects had subjective complaints of exercise limitation. PE subjects exercised at a workload similar to that of control subjects. Maximal heart rate and O2 pulse did not differ between the two groups. Respiratory measurements during exercise were similar between the two groups. Respiratory measurements during exercise were similar between the two groups. Postoperatively there was no change in forced vital capacity (as a percentage of the predicted value). The PE subjects exercised for a slightly longer period and had a slightly higher O2 pulse, whereas control subjects showed no change.
Conclusion: Some subjects with PE have mild restrictive lung disease, which is not affected by surgical repair. Postoperatively they have a slight increase in exercise tolerance and O2 pulse, which suggests improved cardiac function during exercise. However, the clinical implications of this modest improvement are unclear.