Jake Cooper had been competing in downhill mountain bike races for more than a decade when he started experiencing heart palpitations and fatigue. He was only 29 years old.
After visiting his primary care doctor, Jake was directed to Dr. Barry LoSasso, a surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital. Dr. LoSasso diagnosed Jake with pectus excavatum, a condition in which a person's breastbone is sunken into his or her chest.
“In high school I thought my chest was sunken because I was thin,” Jake says. “I thought all I needed to do was lift weights and get bigger and that would fix the problem, but all weight lifting did was make the problem worse and create a bigger gap in my chest.”
Jake’s sunken chest was putting pressure on his lungs and heart, which caused the heart palpitations and fatigue.
“After Dr. LoSasso explained all of the complications that could occur from pectus, I knew it was something I needed to fix right away,” Jake says.
Dr. LoSasso recommended Jake have the Nuss procedure — a minimally invasive surgery where a curved steel bar is inserted under the sternum to “pop out” the depression in the chest.
The surgery was developed in 1988 by Dr. Donald Nuss, of the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, in Norfolk, VA. Dr. LoSasso, who trained with Dr. Nuss, launched Rady Children’s Hospital’s surgical program to treat children with this condition in 2000.
Though the Nuss procedure is typically performed on children, the procedure can be done on adults with excellent results. Jake went through a series of tests to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to assess the severity of his condition.
“My surgery was a bit unique because I had a lot of chest muscle, so instead of putting one bar into my chest, they had to put two,” Jake said. “The surgery lasted 11 hours and everything went smoothly.”
After the surgery, the results were instant, Jake says. His chest was no longer sunken in. Jake will have to keep the bars in for up to three years to allow new muscle tissue to grow to keep the ribs in sternum in the correct position.
“My recovery has been good,” he says. “I’ve had minimal pain and I am slowly building my strength back up. Hopefully, I will be racing again soon.”
For the media: To talk with Dr. LoSasso about the Nuss procedure, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.