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What Is Thoracoplasty?

In a thoracoplasty, select ribs are shortened.
Thoracoplasty is a common treatment for people with scoliosis.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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Thorcoplasty involves shortening select ribs in the chest area. It is a fairly common procedure for people suffering from scoliosis, since it works to make the rib hump that is caused by scoliosis smaller and less severe. Typically, a patient will undergo thoroplasty after she has undergone the corrective procedure for scoliosis. Thoracoplasty is also used to manage pulmonary disease. For example, if parts of the chest cavity are infected from tuberculosis, mycobacteria or other postpneumonic issues, the procedure may be a life-saving option.

In scoliosis, thoracoplasty can reduce the outward deformity caused by a rib hump, thereby improving the general appearance of the patient. In addition, a rib hump can be quite painful, so removing it may reduce or relieve the pain associated with the condition. For example, if a patient experiences discomfort when she leans against the back of a chair, removing the rib hump can help lower the level of discomfort.

Generally, a doctor will discuss with her patient where the thoracoplasty will be on the body. Since the ribs will be shortened to relieve pain and alleviate the rib hump, each patient’s case will be analyzed and considered. For scoliosis cases, the amount of rib removed will depend on the curve of the spine and the severity and size of the hump.

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The surprising thing with the human body is that the rib or ribs grow back and create a new rib or ribs over two to four months time after the thoracoplasty is completed. The new rib will be just as strong as the prior rib, once the healing process is complete. Unfortunately, if the curvature of the spine continues and worsens, the rib hump could return. Consequently, it is important to treat the scoliosis, as well as remove the rib hump.

After the thoracoplasty, most patients wear a brace to protect the chest cavity from the ribs. Doing so will prevent the ribs from rubbing against the internal organs of the chest and reduce the chances that fluid will collect in the chest cavity, calling for a chest tube. Basically, the brace reduces the chances for immediate complications, although it does nothing to improve the outcome of the surgery. In addition, the unprotected chest wall faces few dangers from everyday activities. Of course, if a traumatic injury were to occur, it could damage the chest wall.

A patient who decides to go forward with the thoracoplasty procedure should expect to spend four to eight days in the hospital. In addition, full recovery can take several months. It is important to discuss all concerns and address any questions with a reputable surgeon before undergoing this procedure.

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