Health Beat

Health Beat: Freezing away the pain from funnel chest

PHOENIX - Sebastian Diaz ran track and noticed his running performance deteriorating in the summer of 2017.

"It was a lot of shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, just really felt like I was kind of like trapped," Diaz said. "I couldn't reach my full potential in the sport and stuff."

Diaz and his family decided he needed to get his pectus excavatum fixed.

Dr. Dan Ostlie, the surgeon-in-chief at Phoenix Children's Hospital, wanted to use cryoablation before inserting a rod into the chest to push it out. The procedure calls for holding a probe that's minus-60 degrees Celsius to four layers of nerves for two minutes. Diaz was patient number-one.

"That causes the child to become numb across the front of the chest while the bar is in place and decreases the amount of pain they have associated with the repair," Ostlie said.

The numbness lasts for two months or more, meaning fewer painkillers for less time.

"We now have kids that are coming off the pain medication at less than two weeks; whereas before, it was a month to get them off the oxycodone," said Dr. David Notrica, co-director of the chest wall program at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Diaz said his recovery has been easy, and he feels better than ever:

"There was a 100-percent difference in terms of my performance, everything I did," he said. "It was really exciting."

Also exciting: he heads to college this fall as a pre-med student.

Ostlie will remove the rod from Diaz's chest at the three-year mark, in about 18 months. Surgeons at Phoenix Children's started using cryo before pectus repair 18 months ago. They have successfully treated 95 patients who've all regained full feeling in their frozen nerves.

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