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Some people fail to take chest disorders seriously because only 1.03% of people suffer from it. However, chest disorders are a serious matter and should be treated as such. A seemingly simple chest disorder can lead to serious conditions such as hyperventilation, chronic respiratory failure, and in extreme cases, even death.

But let’s start from the beginning. What is even considered a chest wall disorder?

In broad terms, chest wall disorders are a group of deformities, malformations, and abnormalities between the thoracic cage and respiratory muscles. Most of them are characterized by a breathing-restrictive defect and the potential to cause respiratory failure. In broad terms, chest wall disorders can be separated into three categories: trauma, masses, and deformities of the chest wall.

We’re going to look at each category and tell you what you need to know about chest wall disorders.

Chest Wall Trauma

Let’s start with one of the most frequent chest disorders, Flail chest. This disorder occurs when a segment of the rib cage breaks due to trauma and detaches from the rest of the chest wall. Research indicates that chest wall trauma accounts for 20% of all major trauma.

1. How Serious is Chest Wall Trauma?
What differentiates chest trauma from other injuries is that it’s a lot deadlier than other trauma. Although people tend to disagree about the actual number, it’s estimated that chest trauma is responsible for anywhere between 25% and 60% of all trauma-related fatalities.

2. How Does Chest Wall Trauma Occur?
Most common chest trauma cases come with injuries such as cracked ribs and damaged lungs. In most cases, they happen after an impact to the chest area resulted from a fall, traffic accident, or a sports-related injury. After the accident, chest ache, coughing fits, and short breaths are common occurrences.

3. How to Help and Speed Up Your Recovery?
Your treatment hinges on everything from the type of trauma to your age and physical condition. In some cases, the chest wall simply needs to heal on its own and in others, it requires surgery to drain the chest area and fix the ribs.

Here’s what to do to speed up your chest trauma recovery:

  • Train your chest by holding your breath and exhaling slowly
  • Try to cough normally when you feel the need to
  • Try to spend too much time standing or sitting

Chest Wall Masses

Both benevolent and cancerous tumors can grow in the chest cavity. Nonthreatening tumors are far more frequent and make up 63% of all chest masses. These tumors usually don’t cause any problems for the patient. Sometimes they make breathing in and out harder for the patient. When that happens, the doctor would probably recommend removing it.

1. Common Types of Chest Wall Tumors
There are numerous types of chest wall tumors. More than 50% of cancerous tumors spread from different organs in your body. In most cases, malignant masses in the chest wall are sarcomas. Sarcomas either come from:

  • Soft tissue (45%)
  • Bone or cartilaginous tissue (55%)

Most commonly-found sarcoma in the chest area is Chondrosarcomas, which usually comes from the anterior tract of ribs. They are one of the most difficult bone tumors to treat.

2. Symptoms of Chest Wall Masses
Like one might expect, different tumors come with different symptoms. For example, a soft-tissue mass won’t affect you for a long time, until it gets to an advanced stage.

Most common chest wall tumor symptoms include:

  • Severe chest pains
  • Difficulties moving around
  • Difficulties taking deep breaths

Since some tumors don’t cause any pain, it’s important to go for routine checkups and to talk to your doctor regularly if you have a history of chest wall tumors in your family.

3. How Do You Treat the Condition?
Once the doctor finds out more about the mass, mainly its location, type, and size, you’ll be able to get proper treatment. Some tumors don’t require any treatment at all, while others require radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Chest Wall Deformities

A chest wall deformity can be developed at any point in life, but more often than not, these deformities are present at birth. Deformities that appear later in life, in adolescence or mid-’20s for example, progress much quicker than the ones presented from birth.

There are numerous chest wall deformities. But Pectus Excavatum and Pectus Carinatum most commonly found disorders. Less common types include Poland’s and Jeune’s syndrome, as well as sternum and rib defects. Let’s take a look at these two deformities in more detail.

1. Pectus Excavatum (Funnel Chest)
Funnel chest is most noticeable for the dent it creates in the chest area. Pectus Excavatum is the most common type of chest wall deformities and has a prevalence of 1 per 1000 children and mainly occurs in teenage boys. A quarter of funnel chest sufferers reports the same condition in other family members.

Two main types of funnel chest treatment are:

  1. Ravitch Procedure: Removing abnormal cartilages through an incision in the patient’s chest and getting the wall back in proper order by hand.
  2. Ravitch Procedure: Making an incision in the patient’s chest and placing a curved steel bar through it in order to get the wall back in normal shape. 

Both procedures are relatively complicated and require home care after the surgery is done.

2. Pectus Carinatum (Pigeon Chest)
Pigeon chest is much rarer than funnel chest. It occurs in 1 in 1500 children and usually runs in the family. Although it can happen in early teens, this condition mostly occurs in infants. Nearly 90% of Pectus Carinatum cases are diagnosed during the first 12 months of the patient’s life. It occurs as a result of abnormal costal cartilage growth. The condition is usually treated with a chest-wall brace, although extreme cases require the Ravitch Procedure.

How To Deal With Chest Wall Disorders?

You should go and visit a doctor if you suspect you or anyone from your loved ones is suffering from a chest wall disorder. As you’ve seen, these disorders, while curable, may lead to more serious complications down the line. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure to consult a doctor on any possible problem.

We hope you found our article interesting and informative. What’s your knowledge of chest disorders? Share your experiences and thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.