Emirati Woman Receives Country’s First ‘Funnel Chest’ Corrective Surgery

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Surgeons Perform Minimally Invasive ‘Nuss’ Procedure

A young Emirati woman has become the first person in the UAE to undergo corrective surgery for “funnel” chest, a condition in which her sternum and ribs were pressing on her heart and creating a severe indentation in her chest.

Surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi performed a video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) “Nuss” procedure on the 27-year-old patient, a minimally invasive technique that corrects the congenital deformity known as pectus excavatum, or “funnel” chest.

This latest innovative surgery is among several new procedures now available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which is providing complex care closer to home.

The procedure was led by Dr. Redha Souilamas, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute, and his surgical team, who inserted a custom-shaped titanium support bar into the patient’s chest to lift the inward protrusion of her sternum.

Created by Dr. Andrew Nuss in the United States in 1987, the two-hour procedure involves inserting a small camera into the patient’s chest to help guide the surgeons. They then make small incisions on either side of the patient’s chest and insert the titanium bar, which has been shaped to fit the patient, between the heart and the sternum. The bar is secured to the chest wall on both sides and remains in place for about two years before being taken out in another minimally invasive procedure.

“The successful ‘Nuss’ procedure means that Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi now offers the full spectrum of thoracic surgery, including lung transplants,” said Dr. Redha. “This position has been achieved in less than three years and we are extremely proud to become one of the leading thoracic surgery centers in the UAE and the Middle East.

“The surgery was a success and the patient has been discharged and is recovering well,” Dr. Redha added. “Previously, people in the UAE with pectus excavatum traveled overseas to have corrective surgery, but this is no longer necessary as they can now undergo the procedure closer to home at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.”

Pectus excavatum is more common in boys than girls and varies in severity, from a small indentation to a caved-in appearance of the chest, which becomes more noticeable in a patient’s teenage years.

Symptoms of pectus excavatum include shortness of breath during exercise, decreased stamina, fatigue, chest pain and an irregular heartbeat, while psychological issues include decreased self-esteem, depression and embarrassment from the appearance of the chest.

“I was a little nervous about being the first patient in the UAE to undergo the procedure and had initially applied to have the surgery overseas,” said the patient, who does not want to be identified for privacy reasons.

“But I was referred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi after waiting for four years to have the surgery. I am happy with my decision not to have this surgery overseas, because it means that I was closer to my family and I knew that Dr. Redha had a lot of experience. My brother has the same condition and he is now considering doing the same procedure in the summer.”

As part of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute, the hospital’s General Thoracic Surgery program, diagnoses and treats the entire spectrum of diseases affecting the chest. The multidisciplinary team of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, endoscopists, interventional radiologists, anesthesiologists, and intensive care physicians, use the latest range of innovative techniques and technologies, including many minimally invasive procedures to reduce surgical trauma and recovery times for patients.

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