YOUR HEALTH: Freezing the nerves to deaden the pain for a child’s surgery

A painful chest surgery for children is being made less painful by freezing the nerves before the operation.

PHOENIX, Arizona – 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. I couldn't reach my full potential in the sport and stuff."

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

Pectus excavatum, or "funnel chest", happens when a child grows quickly and the chest bones don't develop correctly, often causing a sunken or hollow-looking chest.

Dr. Dan Ostlie wanted to use cryoablation before inserting a rod into the chest to push it out.

He holds a probe that's minus 60 degrees Celsius to four layers of nerves for two minutes.

Sebastian 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," explained Dr. Ostlie, Surgeon-in-chief at Phoenix's Children's Hospital.

The surgery involves putting a bar behind the chest which only takes about 20 seconds to straighten the chest, which is why it is a painful procedure.

With the cryoablation, 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 David Notrica, program co-director of the hospital's Chest Wall program.

Sebastian says his recovery has been easy, and he feels better than ever.

"There was a 100% difference in terms of my performance, everything I did. It was really exciting."

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

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.