Pectus excavatum silicone implants: what they are and how they’re made
Implants can be used to correct physical deformities that affect the shape of the chest. The techniques required for this procedure involve producing a purpose built implant to replicate the missing contour of the ribs so giving a more normal appearance of the chest and in females the breast shape and symmetry.
Pectus excavatum is a deformity of the thorax (the chest) which causes the sternum to bend inwards, resulting in the chest having a concaved appearance. Pectus excavatum is also known as ‘funnel chest’ and has long been treated with highly invasive surgeries such as the Nuss procedure and the Ravitch procedure. You can find out more about these procedures here.
Advances in technology mean that pectus excavatum can now be corrected by inserting a custom-made implant under the chest muscle to fill the ‘hole’ in the sternum created by pectus excavatum.
Unlike the implants used for breast augmentation, prosthetic implants for pectus excavatum are bespoke and are designed to fit the concave area of the chest exactly.
There are four steps involved in creating a custom-made implant
1. CT scan of the patient’s body
Firstly, you’ll have a CT scan. A CT scan takes detailed X-rays images of the inside of your body. This procedure involves laying on your back on a bed that slowly passes into the CT scanner. The bed will stop moving as the circular CT scanner reaches your chest area.
You’ll need to lie very still, with your arms at your sides, for around 10 to 20 minutes while the scanner takes pictures.
Although the radiographer will be in another room, you’ll be able to hear them and speak to them via an intercom.
2. 3D model of the patient’s body
The data from your CT scan will be sent to Anatomik Modelling which will create a 3D computer model of your torso. This will be identical to your anatomy and will be used to create a prototype of the implant. This prototype will be sent to the manufacturers to create a custom-made implant.
3. Design of a virtual 3D implant
Your implant will be made by implant manufacturing specialist SEBBIN. The manufacturer will use the prototype from Anatomik Modelling to calculate the size, volume and thickness of the implant and where the implant should be placed in your chest.
Once the design is complete, your surgeon will confirm that it is correct and the manufacturer will create your unique implant.
4. Manufacture of a custom-made silicone rubber implant
The manufacturer will create the implant out of silicone rubber and, once complete, it will be sterilised and delivered to your surgeon, ready for your surgery.
Why use silicone rubber implants for pectus excavatum?
The implants are made from NuSil medical polymerised silicone—NuSil has manufactured medical implants for over 35 years.
Polymerised silicone is also known as silicone rubber and is not the same type of material used for breast implants. Silicone rubber implants will not rupture or tear and can’t be punctured, and there’s no risk of the material rippling.
The implants are designed to feel firmer in the middle, to replicate the feel and appearance of bone, and to taper out at the edges, meaning the edges can’t be seen or felt under the skin.
Pectus excavatum implant surgery is minimally invasive. When compared with more invasive procedures for this condition, the surgery has a quick recovery time and patients cope well using painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Find out more about pectus excavatum in general with our guide Causes, symptoms and surgery options for pectus excavatum.