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Thoracic Deformity

What Is a Thoracic Deformity?

The thoracic area of your spine is between your collarbone and abdomen. A thoracic spine deformity means that some part of your spinal column or rib cage turns at an unnatural angle or makes an abnormal shape. Thoracic deformities related to the spine usually refer to spinal deformities, such as scoliosis or thoracic kyphosis.

How Do I Get a Thoracic Deformity?

Most of the time, chest wall deformities are present at birth, although you may not notice any disfigurement until you reach adolescence. That’s when the condition progresses more rapidly. Deformities of the spine are more likely result from aging and use. Other causes of thoracic deformities include:

  • Malnutrition and other childhood trauma may affect your growth and cause your spine to develop unnaturally.
  • Scoliosis, a specific type of deformity, occurs most often in the middle of the back.
  • Over time, years of poor posture coupled with normal wear and tear can cause abnormalities.
  • A deformity in the spine or rib cage may be caused by an injury.
  • Complications from a related condition, such as a herniated disc can eventually cause misalignment.
  • A previous spine surgery may leave you with deformities. Your neurosurgeon at NU-Spine specializes in treating this problem, called failed back syndrome.

Spinal deformities are often painful, particularly when they compress the nerves and cause radiculopathy. The severity of your deformity dictates the urgency for finding a solution, as some levels of deformity may actually be life-threatening.

Additionally, your thoracic spine deformities treatment from the spinal doctor at NU-Spine takes into account your appearance. Spine deformities take a toll on your self-esteem. Your doctor’s goal is to leave you looking as good as you feel following treatment.

What Kinds of Thoracic Deformities Exist?

You need to undergo a thorough evaluation by a specialist because there are many different types of thoracic deformities. Each requires individual attention and a unique approach to the treatment plan. Types of spinal deformities in your mid-back include:

  • Pectus excavatum, where your sternum grows inward, giving you the appearance of a caved-in chest
  • Pectus carinatum, which causes your sternum to grow outward and protrude out from your chest
  • Poland syndrome, in which you don’t develop chest muscles on one side of your body, and it may affect your arm and hand as well
  • Jeune syndrome, a dangerous condition that leaves your chest narrow due to shorter-than-average ribs
  • Sternal clefts, where the two sides of your sternum are separated more than usual
  • Jarcho-Levin syndrome, which causes abnormal spine and rib development
  • Scoliosis, where your spine is curved sideways
  • Thoracic kyphosis, which describes a curved spine, also referred to as a hunchback
  • Thoracic insufficiency syndrome, which means that your chest wall doesn’t properly support respiratory and heart development
  • Thoracic myelopathy, where deformities in the spine press on your nerves, causing intense pain

Before you undergo any kind of thoracic spine deformities treatment, you need a correct diagnosis. Dr. Skovrlj reviews your medical history and performs a physical exam, but may also order advanced imaging tests before coming to an accurate picture of your condition. Only then can he determine the next steps to take.

What Are the Consequences of Thoracic Deformities?

Left untreated, thoracic deformities can leave you with a multitude of consequences, ranging from emotional to physical and even financial. In addition to sometimes crippling back pain that worsens over time, you may encounter:

  • Labored breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased mobility
  • Digestive problems
  • Missed career opportunities due to an inability to physically do the job
  • Poor self-image and low self-esteem
  • Missed social opportunities because your appearance may be off-putting to others
  • Difficulty finding clothes to fit

Some thoracic deformities — such as Jarcho-Levin syndrome or Jeune syndrome — can be life threatening. They add restrictions on your breathing or complications that cause your internal organs to have difficulty developing.

What Are My Options for Thoracic Spine Deformities Treatment?

Your New Jersey neurosurgeon devises a treatment plan based on the cause of the deformity, the severity of your symptoms, your age and previous surgical history. You may need a complicated surgical option such as spinal reconstruction surgery or a minimally invasive procedure, such as:

  • Hemilaminectomy
  • Microdiscectomy
  • Laminectomy
  • Corpectomy
  • Discectomy
  • Spinal fusion
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