The chest wall is a protective cage that fits around the organs in the chest and upper abdomen, including the heart, lungs, and liver. The chest wall also helps to stabilize the shoulders and arms and supports breathing. It is made up of the ribs, spinal column, sternum, and surrounding muscles and blood vessels.
The structures of the chest wall may become damaged by infection, trauma (such as a fall from a great height), or by treatment of certain diseases. For example, the treatment of lung cancer may require removal of parts of the chest wall, such as the sternum, ribs, or soft tissue. It is also possible to be born with abnormalities or defects in the chest wall.
Chest wall reconstruction is surgery to repair damage to the chest wall. There are several different types of chest wall reconstruction. The type a surgeon chooses depends on the damage that exists to the chest wall. Some types of chest wall reconstruction use mesh or other structures to replace lost ribs or other bones. Other types use existing, healthy muscles, such as the pectoral muscles, to take over the function of damaged muscles, or hold damaged structures together. The goal of chest wall reconstruction is to restore the function of the chest wall, allowing it to function normally.
Chest wall reconstruction is major surgery and is performed under general anesthesia by a team of highly skilled surgeons and nurses. You can expect to stay in the hospital for at least three days and up to one week. Recovery from chest wall reconstruction takes several months and should be overseen by your doctor.